An uncertain global trade environment set the tone for the fifth annual Cayman Islands Shipping and Yachting Summit at the Grand Cayman Marriott Resort on Monday.
Cayman Islands Shipping Registry CEO Joel Walton turned morning discussion to U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he described as specializing more in the art of chaos than the art of the deal.
For the shipping industry, he expressed concern about contradictory messages on China, NAFTA, Russia, the Philippines and NATO, among other global players.
Despite backlash to globalization, he expects the shipping industry to adapt.
“I would still expect deeper globalization, deeper integration of supply chains and more global trade,” Mr. Walton said.
Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co. President Basil Karatzas said in the face of change, the industry must find the new line of order to overcome uncertainty and industry unknowns.
He encouraged the industry to consider three factors when it comes to predicting President Trump’s actions: what he wants to accomplish, what he says he wants to accomplish and what he can accomplish.
U.S. law firm Blank Rome partner Jeanne Grasso said she expects President Trump to have an indirect rather than a direct impact on shipping through trade and sanction policies.
“He’s a president to be taken seriously but maybe not literally,” she said.
Despite the complexity of global regulations, she said the industry must push for standardized operations.
“It’s imperative we strive for consistency within the countries. That can be challenging but it has to be an overriding goal,” she said.
Frank Coles, CEO of Transas, a developer and supplier of a wide range of IT solutions for the marine industry, warned about the inevitable impact of automation and the move toward unmanned ships. Just as taxi companies have felt the impact of Uber, he said, the shipping industry must be prepared to respond to the influence of industry outsiders.
Cayman Islands Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton focused on international shipping accomplishments for the islands. He highlighted resolving ambiguity with shipping status in China, as well as Cayman being named to the Tokyo MOU white list. “Maritime is our history and our future,” he told the crowd.
The conference continues Tuesday morning at the Marriott with discussion of implementing MARPOL, the international convention for reducing ship pollution, in the Caribbean.