How a Large Diversified Shipping Company Manages Change in a Rapidly Changing Operating Environment

On 26 October, the World Maritime University (WMU) was pleased to welcome Mr Bud Darr, Group Executive Vice President of Maritime Policy and Government Affairs of MSC Group, for a special guest lecture entitled “A Conversation about how a Large Diversified Shipping Company Manages Change in a Rapidly Changing Operating Environment”.  

In her welcome remarks, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU, noted her appreciation to Mr Darr for his willingness to share his industry perspective with the students. She said, “We are the Go To Place for maritime education, training and capacity-building at the post-graduate level. Our students are the maritime and ocean leaders of tomorrow who will have a direct impact on the sustainability of the maritime and ocean sectors. We welcome the engagement with the industry, which is mutually beneficial, and also critical to our global maritime and ocean capacity building mission.”

In his remarks, Mr Darr emphasized the importance of shipping to the global economy saying, “Our core business is that we connect the world. We make it possible for international trade to occur. We make it possible for economies to prosper and the goods that we need daily to move in the most efficient manner... It's an incredibly important service that the shipping industry provides, yet it remains in the background.”

Addressing the topic of supply chain disruptions, Mr Darr noted the importance of the major incident with the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal in March of 2021 that brought newfound attention to the shipping industry and emphasized the impact of major disruptions in shipping on the global economy. He suggested the industry should make use of the high-profile incident to emphasize the importance of shipping to the global supply chain.

Mr Darr also emphasized the importance of seafarers and that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the contribution of the shipping industry to global trade remained largely uninterrupted. However, he urged that what happened to seafarers during the pandemic must not be forgotten - the hardships they had to endure as countries shut their borders leaving hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded at sea well past their contracts and unable to repatriate, or unable to board ships and earn their income. Regarding autonomous shipping, he maintained that in his view, there will continue to be a very important role for seafarers on ships.

Mr Darr emphasized that creativity and collaboration will be key to solving the challenges posed by decarbonization of the shipping industry. He said, “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but I see several pathways to do it….I believe we can get there, but we need to have a positive attitude going into it and look for how, not if, otherwise we’re not going to meet this really challenging target we have set for ourselves.”

The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer period with the students. Mr Darr expressed his appreciation of being asked to provide a lecture at WMU saying, “I really understand the importance of this institution, what it means for the shipping community, and how you [the students] can be the leaders of tomorrow.”

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