In the years that I’ve worked in shipping, I’ve had the good fortune to attend most of the major industry shows but for one reason or another, never made it to Posidonia – an event most definitely preceded by its reputation. With a bit of cajoling, I bagged my spot at this year’s event and was eager to see whether it lived up to the hype. On the flight home from Athens I took the opportunity to reflect on what was most definitely a unique experience…
Powered by relationships – Posidonia was a brilliant reminder that shipping is an eco-system that simultaneously manages to be both huge AND incredibly close-knit. The sheer number of companies that I’d never heard of who are doing brilliant, innovative things was mind-boggling. At the same time, I was constantly bumping into people I knew and being introduced by them to other friends and colleagues. The shipping industry really is powered by its human relationships. ‘Six degrees of John Fredriksen’ anyone?
Digital dominates and disrupts – unsurprisingly, digitalisation led the agenda – from the conference hall to the parties, and across the length and breadth of all four exhibition halls. After a year or two dominated by speculation about what digitalisation, ship-to-shore connectivity, AI, and blockchain might mean for shipping, it’s clear that this technological tsunami is well on its way to sweeping through all corners of the industry – not just at sea, but also in the offices of maritime and logistics operations.
The next generation – for an industry that talks a lot about ‘young people’, ‘fresh blood’, and ‘the next generation’ but doesn’t always know where to find them, it was refreshing to see so many fresh young faces at Posidonia. When several hundred people pack out the conference hall on a Thursday evening after a long week for an event targeting the ship managers of the future, it’s a pretty positive sign. A sentiment reinforced when speaker after speaker urged them to use their own imagination to reshape the industry. In this spirit, Richard Meade hits the nail on the head in speaking of a “next generation mentality” emerging to lead the charge for positive change.
Business and pleasure – Posidonia’s reputation as the party capital of the shipping circuit may be well earned (where else is the party entertainment provided by a former Eurovision winner?!) but that’s only half the story. The social side certainly dominates, but there’s plenty of business being done here too, with some truly innovative products on display in the exhibition halls and no shortage of serious conversations, whether in seminar rooms or on a rooftop bar overlooking the Acropolis.
Roll on 2020 – The only real frustration is having to wait another two years to do it all over again, but I’m looking forward to Posidonia 2020. Lessons for next time: stock up in advance on sleep. Plan ahead for party invitations. Don’t underestimate the number of business cards you’ll need. Or overestimate the number of brochures that you’ll take home (with apologies for those abandoned in our Airbnb). And look forward to enjoying more of the wonderful Greek hospitality that makes Posidonia such a legendary fixture in the shipping calendar.
By Simon Phillips, Director