Based on the significant development and changes, some largely unexpected, that we have seen in 2016, making predictions for 2017 is a somewhat daunting task. There are however a few things that seem quite reasonable to expect for the year to come. The first is continued high uncertainty going forward. The UK vote for Brexit represents a sharp change of direction in Europe and creates a more complex backdrop for European roro trade development in 2017.

Although direct effects might take time to be felt, the fact that we do not know what Brexit will look like creates a climate of uncertainty where decision makers are likely to err on the side of caution. The outcome of the US election is also a source of uncertainty, given the lack of clarity around what the actual policies of President Trump will turn out to be.

Domestic policies like infrastructure development could be a positive stimulus for shipping, while protectionist ideas are more likely to have negative effects. To what degree the string of European elections taking place in 2017 and the outcome of these will be significant for the economic development in the western world remains to be seen.

Another rather predictable trend is the heightened focus on environmental performance in the shipping industry. The recent IMO decision to introduce the global sulphur cap in 2020, the discussions on shipping’s role in reducing CO2 emission and the ratification of the ballast water treatment brings home the fact that shipping will have to up the ante in terms of environmental performance.

This will need to be a mainstay of all serious logistics companies’ strategies going forward, not least because of the cost it will entail. With most segments in the shipping industry experiencing tremendous pressure these days, with challenges ranging from slowing trade growth and overcapacity to technological disruptions, environmental performance will remain one of the failure-is-not-an option-missions in modern shipping. 

This article was originally published in JOC’s Annual Review & Outlook of 2017.