Rough Seas Ahead for Marine Industry

The sector’s profitability is precarious, but investments in technology and recruitment could assuage some of its challenges.
By: | October 3, 2017 • 4 min read

The marine sector faced an uncertain and at times unstable year in 2016. Regulatory uncertainty, fluctuating shipment volume, tightening margins and changing technology challenged the industry and will continue to do so into 2017.


But the convergence of trends in technology, labor, and market demands offer new opportunities as well as new risks for marine operators.

Marsh, which has a global marine practice spanning more than 100 countries, analyzed these trends in its recent report, “The Changing Tide of Risk: Expert Perspectives on the Marine Industry.”

Emerging Technology

New technologies are poised to help modernize the marine industry.

Logistics is one area ripe for a tech makeover. According to Marsh, container logistics is a $4 trillion per year industry “rooted in the byzantine world of legacy IT systems, massive amounts of data-entry type paperwork, and milestone management processes.”

A Maersk study concluded that about 30 individuals or organizations touch the shipment of a product using a shipping container – a process that involves as many as 200 transactions.

Blockchain offers a way to centralize data, documents and transactions, reducing risk of error, streamlining administrative processes, and cutting costs.

Uncertainty over environmental regulations makes it difficult for ship designers, owners and financiers to plan the best ship design, and it is unclear what incentives might be introduced by new regulations that affect operational decisions.

Some ports are experimenting with blockchain technology, but applications remain in the proof-of-concept phase.

Autonomous shipping holds promise as well. Marsh expects to see fully autonomous ships at sea by the end of 2020. Onboard technology can monitor cargo conditions, alert relevant parties to any issues, and provide records of incidents.

3D printing has also been tested by the Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing Lab to make metal castings. 3D printing can reduce the time it takes to make a casting from months to just weeks.

All of these technologies, however, increase exposure to hacking, with unknown impacts on business operations or worker safety. Hackers could break into connected systems to steal corporate data, intentionally damage cargo or ships, or interrupt business with a DDOS attack.

Human Capital

The world fleet grew by 3 percent in 2016, while shipments increased by 2 percent. But an aging workforce, lack of skilled laborers, and a lack of interest in the marine industry from young people mean shippers may not be able to handle the growth. According to the Marsh report, a study by BIMCO and ICS found that the marine industry could be short by as many as 147,500 officers by 2025.

In its efforts to recruit more workers, marine companies may benefit by improving gender diversity. Currently only 2 percent of seafarers are women, and 98 percent of those women work on cruise ships or in some type of service capacity. The Marsh report suggests that the industry must revamp its image to appeal to a broader pool of prospects.

Market Demands

International shippers will also face pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Global shipping is responsible for 2.3 percent of the world’s total emissions – down slightly from 2.8 percent in 2007.

The International Maritime Organization adopted standards to improve efficiency and cut emissions in 2011, and cargo shippers have since been able to reduce their carbon emissions even while shipment volume has increased.

But shippers are feeling the squeeze to further cut their sulfur emissions in addition to carbon. Significant emissions reduction won’t be possible without a viable alternative to fossil fuel, the report stated. Even with the ability to store energy in batteries, ships will still need a backup form of liquid fuel.

Uncertainty over environmental regulations makes it difficult for ship designers, owners and financiers to plan the best ship design, and it is unclear what incentives might be introduced by new regulations that affect operational decisions.


Other challenging trends include cargo theft, which costs the U.S. about $50 billion each year, and falling export prices. The World Trade Monitor index shows global export prices at 20.5 percent below peak, Marsh said. Falling prices are largely due to excess capacity in heavily traded sectors and stagnant export volume.

Though shipment volume increased in 2016, industry researchers see the trend as short-lived and uneven across the globe. Prices and profit margins should improve, however, as global economic health continues to recover.

The Insurance Sector

Overcapacity is also challenging the market. More marine operators are shifting risks to non-traditional new entrants into the marketplace over historical markets like London or Paris, sometimes retaining more risk themselves. Prolonged complacency by underwriters “has done little to focus attention on the quality of tonnage being insured or the terms being offered,” the report said.

Overall, the report warns that the marine industry, including shippers, ports and every member of the supply chain, will face a difficult year ahead if it does not rein in excess capacity. A single Black Swan event could reveal inadequate insurance coverage and cause lasting damage to an industry already fighting for profit margin.

It is imperative for the marine sector to invest in attracting new talent, and in adopting technologies that can boost efficiency and help to control costs.&

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]