Ocean Shipping’s Future: Response to Uncertainty and Volatility

What does the future of ocean shipping look like?

To gain insights into that question, we can look at how ocean shipping is responding to today’s uncertainty and volatility.

So what’s hindering ocean shipping today?

Global trade wars, Covid-19, the grounding of the Ever Given, and HMM’s cyberattack, to name a few. All have sewn uncertainty and volatility. And their lingering effects are still felt today.

In attempting to remedy these shortcomings, industry stakeholders must take a long-term view. Fixing today’s challenges won’t occur with the flip of a switch. On the contrary, they will take time because of their size, scale, and complexity.

Coming out of the pandemic has spurred companies to initiate or accelerate change. Hence, transforming business processes is getting a boost from Covid-19 lessons learned, new technologies, and government regulations.

The approach to rebuilding supply chains includes two elements. At the core of these, you will find the customer. That’s the first  element: starting with the customer at the center of your redesign. The second element consists of taking an enterprise perspective.


Ocean Transport’s Future Lays Bare Old Problems. The problems challenging ocean shipping today reflect an assorted mix of complex issues. Let’s look at the myriad issues plaguing ocean transport today.

  • Port congestion
  • Lack of capacity
  • Rising prices
  • Seamless flow of cargo
  • Risk management
  • Pollution
  • Competition

Did you notice anything unusual about this list of issues?

First, as you already know, they’re all complicated issues. Second, if you said, there’s nothing new here, you’re right!  Nothing on this list suggests something new has surfaced to challenge the industry. The only difference between pre-pandemic times and now is the sense of urgency. As a result, resolving these issues has greater focus and attention now.

Before the pandemic, industry stakeholders relegated these issues to the back office. The pandemic brought these issues to the public eye. Promoting public awareness of supply chain management was an unintended consequence.

Yet, in doing so, the pandemic has accelerated the resolution of some of these issues. In addition, it has revealed the intractable nature of others. This implies existing issues are getting worse. It also suggests these complicated issues need a long-term focus.

It further implies old methods of resolving these issues are ineffective. Moreover, it implies transformation of ocean shipping calls for “new thinking”.

This, the future of ocean shipping lies in a transformation that creates anticipatory, adaptive, agile, and resilient supply chains. That means delivering better, faster, and cheaper logistics services.

Let’s explore what some of those methods might be.


New Solutions to Old Problems.  In a nod to Steve Jobs and Apple, industry stakeholders must “Think Different!” Namely, in transforming ocean transport, new solutions require new thinking.

Those solutions will define the New Normal. And how those problems get solved is a critical element to success.

So, again, the problems aren’t new, but how they’re solved must be.

Heading the list of new methods in resolving issues is working in partnership and teams. It embraces the adoption of new business processes and new technologies.

It focuses on anticipation, adaptation, agility, and resilience.  Does this sound familiar? They’re the principles shaping the New Normal. Finally, it values innovation and recognizes the strategic role of supply chain management.

Here are three areas shaping the future of ocean transport.

  • Alliances and Partnerships. The complexity of ocean shipping will drive the formation of alliances and partnerships.


Well, the problems facing the future are too big to solve alone. Some say a big shipping line like Maersk may be able to buck this trend. If it does, it would likely be the exception.

Granted, ocean transport’s issues are not only huge, but they are also structural and intractable. That’s why they require an approach that depends on alliances and partnerships. Companies that combine into alliances and partnerships derive advantage from sharing collective resources.

Tomorrow’s solutions call for aggregating resources made possible by alliances and partnerships. Combined expertise and synergies from collaboration lead to trusting relationships. And that leads to strength and competitive advantage.

This sets the table for strategic planning.

  • Strategic or Long-term Planning. The days of tactical planning are over… when it comes to solving ocean shipping’s intractable problems. Instead, you must take a strategic or long-term view. The future calls for new thinking. It demands strategic thinking to provide strategic solutions.

Achieving effective and efficient results depends on a long-term view. Referring back to Apples’ slogan, we see “Thinking Different”  is more than a slogan. It sets Apple’s long-term, strategic direction. And that entails long-term commitment.

It also enables creative, innovative, sustainable and profitable solutions. It fosters customization over one-size-fits-all solutions.c

Furthermore, long-term planning aids comprehensive planning needed to address risk management. Tomorrow’s supply chain risk management programs must address anticipation, adaptation, agility, and resilience.

Due to strides made in technology and those in the works, realizing these goals are within reach.

  • Technology is opening new doors at a pace not seen before. Although technology development seems to be blindingly fast, it’s adoption is much slower. That’s because you must first identify practical value. Once that’s done, it’s important to look at the problem you’re solving.

In the old days, everyone developed a unique solution in piecemeal fashion. That worked for solving the immediate problem. But that approach often fell short, resulting in a sub-optimized solution.

To avoid a sub-optimized solution, you must focus any solution at the enterprise level. So before adopting Big Data, AI, real-time visibility, or IoT, you must take a strategic approach. That means addressing scalability, integration, and complexity.

That entails looking at your supply chain end-to-end. It also entails paying attention to second and third order effects. It will ensure you’re solving the problem at a strategic level.


Dealing with Volatility and Uncertainty

I’m sure you agree, uncertainty and volatility won’t disappear. Ocean shipping, in particular, and logistics, in general, will always entertain some risk. But the path to the future entails solving long-standing ocean shipping problems.

That path will look for new solutions to old problems. Given logistics’ new strategic role, new technologies and a greater sense of urgency, ocean shipping’s problems may seem less staggering. That may make them more manageable.

Old methods are no longer effective. Doing nothing will result in extinction as pacesetters adopt and adapt.

American Global Logistics can help you thrive in an uncertain and volatile market.

We can help you rebuild your supply chain for the future. We are future-focused on helping you develop your competitive advantage. We look forward to hearing from you.

Take a step in the right direction. Contact American Global Logistics before planning your next steps for ocean shipping’s New Normal.