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Ocean Insights with Frank Olsen

Welcome to the Ocean Insights series – bite sized interviews with the thought leaders, innovators and business people seeking to realise the huge potential of the ocean space. This week we have spoken to Frank Olsen, CEO of Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS).

ISS can trace its roots back over 170 years to Calcutta, where, in 1847, it began trading with the British East India Company as its first client. Today it is a truly global operation and one of the ‘big three’ in the ships agency business, boasting more than 240 offices, in 68 countries, covering around 2,500 ports.

It delivers a broad range of services for customers across all shipping segments, offering everything from full cargo agency, to dry-docking, survey and inspection, husbandry and crew logistics, financial management, and bunker calls – all with the promise of standardised levels of service, transparency, value and complete global compliance.

Frank Olsen took the reins as CEO in 2018 and is focused on doubling the firm’s market share through acquisition, organic growth and a continuous communication of the added value ISS is capable of delivering.

Here he discusses how the industry is evolving, how global networks can deliver local benefits and what lies over the horizon – for both ISS and the maritime industry in general.

Dive in and see what you discover.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the ocean industries over the next decade?

The shipping industry is conservative by nature and was initially slow to grasp the possibilities of increased digitalisation. However, now that transition is underway, developments are moving fast. A new age is upon us and digital solutions that unlock the value of data will drive huge benefits in business efficiency, cost control and environmental performance.

That said, we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that it is the industry’s people that drive its success. Without expert personnel at sea and on land – especially in ports – ships simply cannot sail. So, we need to marry human skills with digital solutions, understanding the possibilities and limitations of both to achieve the best results.

In Inchcape’s case that is perfectly demonstrated by the recent launch of World of Ports. This is a digital service that is built on proprietary data gathered by our staff on the ground in ports worldwide over the course of the last decade. It gives owners and operators access to a wealth of unique information to ensure safe, compatible and efficient port calls – with data relating to over 4,600 ports, 15,000 terminals and 36,000 individual berths. Going forward, World of Ports can be used to facilitate “Just in Time Arrival” and hence contribute to reduced carbon emissions from shipping. There is nothing else like it on the market and it would not be possible without the expert input of our people.

What do you regard as the greatest challenge?

In the short-term it’s impossible not to think of COVID-19. That has changed the way we work, interact and live our lives. Some of the most dynamic shipping segments – such as cruise – have been hit the hardest, and we need to find a permanent solution to a problem that is as crippling economically as it is cruel in terms of individual health.

On a broader scale, sustainability is both a challenge and an opportunity. We need to make the maritime industry cleaner, greener and more responsible – our world demands nothing less. That will lead to many tough decisions, but I believe it will also drive innovation and a desire to operate, collaborate and manage vessels and businesses in a new way. This includes identifying and implementing sustainable green propulsion methods for deep sea shipping. In that respect, there are exciting times ahead.

What do you see as the unique strength of your business and how will it help you succeed?

We know this business better than anyone. We are the biggest pure play ships agency and have close to two centuries of experience working hand-in-hand with shipowners, operators and charterers worldwide. We understand their issues and work to enable their ambitions, with a sprawling global network that ensures that, no matter where you are, ISS is on hand to help you.

We are a partner to our customers and proud of that position of trust. Integrity is core, with standardised, transparent, high quality and optimal value services, equating to real business benefits. In a fractured segment we deliver reliable excellence, every time, everywhere.

What key skills are you looking for in the next generation of industry professionals and how are you working to attract new talent?

That word integrity again. Our customers rely on us and we want people that will do everything in their power to provide first class service, solutions and satisfaction. This is a challenging industry, but it’s also hugely exciting and we want people that thrive on that environment – working hard within a team, but also developing personally. In that way, ambition is also key.

We’re always working to attract the right people with a truly diversified background. Digital channels, word of mouth, advertising, exhibitions – we utilise a wide range of platforms to reach a broad spectrum of talent.

What are you most looking forward to at Nor-Shipping 2021?

Networking with the people in the maritime cluster. Relationships are vital in shipping and Nor-Shipping is a natural meeting place for stakeholders throughout the industry, and beyond. Now more than ever, it’ll be fantastic to catch up with old faces and meet new ones, planning together for how we can rise to those aforementioned opportunities and challenges.

I very much hope the industry (and the world!) has long returned to some sort of normality by then. But whether it has or not, Nor-Shipping can fulfil a vital role as a platform for renewed ambition and development.

The ISS stand at Nor-Shipping 2019

What three words sum up your vision for the future?

Partnering for prosperity

Nor-Shipping 2021 – Your Arena for Ocean Solutions – takes place in Oslo and Lillestrøm, 1-4 June 2021. Find out more at www.nor-shipping.com

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