This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2018 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
The cyclical peaks and troughs of business are particularly familiar to those of us in the shipping industry, so there is no false sense of optimism when I suggest that current and future prospects for the ferry sector have rarely been better. Traffic growth and a resurgence in newbuild orders provide ample evidence of this in the developed world. Although safety remains a major concern in developing nations, there are increasing signs of improvement as Interferry and others share expertise and act as conduits to funding support.
This issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review highlights many of the opportunities and challenges that exist across the global ferry sector. As the ferry industry’s only global voice, Interferry is committed to helping operators and all other key players to maximise the upsides, and minimise the potential downsides, of these opportunities and make the sector stronger than ever.
There are two key drivers in this mission. First, we have vital input on shaping safety and environmental regulations through our consultative status at the International Maritime Organization and our influence at the European Union, where new regulatory proposals are often conceived. Our input on issues as wide-ranging as damage stability to energy efficiency, has already helped inspire sector-specific amendments that preserve regulatory objectives alongside the unique design and operational requirements of ferries. Second, parallel to this lobbying capability Interferry’s networking platform facilitates crucial knowledge exchange among members and maritime professionals, most notably through our industry-leading annual conference.
Since becoming CEO of Interferry in April 2017, I’ve constantly stressed that we are ‘Stronger Together’. That’s because, despite carrying more than two billion passengers and 32 million freight units per year, the global ferry sector represents only 3-5% of overall world shipping. We must punch above our weight to remind policymakers of our indisputable contribution to society.
Recruiting new members is core to increasing Interferry’s strength, not least in countries without the human and financial resources required to enhance training and vessel maintenance. Over the past year, we’ve seen 10% growth, but now we want to extend our reach beyond traditional membership regions like North America, Europe and Australia. Areas such as the Asia Pacific and Central and South America are a prime focus, which explains why Cancun in Mexico, will host our 43rd annual conference this October.
I’m excited by the expert insights awaiting conference attendees as they discuss the theme of safety, security and the environment. Keynote speakers will include Ben Lofstad, Royal Norwegian Navy Commander and director of the NATO Shipping Center in NATO’s Maritime Command, who will review global terrorism trends; Mark Sutcliffe, director of the 700-strong CSO Alliance of maritime company security officers; and Robin Silvester, president and CEO of the Port of Vancouver, a world leader on harnessing eco-friendly aims with commercial viability. The agenda will also feature updates on the best practice guides being developed by our own specially formed safety and security committees.
Last year’s conference in Croatia attracted more than 500 attendees – a record. Similar support at our conference in Cancun this October will ensure our voice grows ever louder.
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