THE EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW March 2021 Frederik Guttormsen: the resilience of shipping a curse and a blessing In each issue, the Bulletin interviews a shipping executive about current topics, challenges and opportunities, and their personal background. In this edition, the Bulletin talks to Frederik Guttormsen, Group Managing Director for shipping at Singapore-based IMC Industrial Group. By Mette Kronholm Frnde, Communications Manager and Editor at BIMCO E ven before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many areas of the shipping industry had been experiencing headwinds for years. Despite all these challenges, the sector has continued to deliver world supplies uninterrupted and has shown surprising resilience, according to Frederik Guttormsen. He believes, it is perhaps because of this display of resilience, that governments have not been inclined to solve the crew-change crisis. IMC is like its peers and competitors experiencing the crew-change crisis first hand. Although it has not had crew stuck on ships many months past the end of their contract, it has faced having a crew member test false positive for COVID-19 as one of its ships went to dry dock, causing it to lose a week of operations unnecessarily. Despite all these challenges, the sector has continued to deliver world supplies uninterrupted In addition, in Korea, the company had to put up a crew in a hotel for over a month because they were unable to get a flight home. In the end, IMC chartered a plane to take the crew back to their home country and families. This is not unique to us. These are problems that every single shipowner and operator face. We have seen many such examples. The sad thing is that there is very little support, as governments worldwide do not understand this problem, says Guttormsen. Right now, we are not seeing the willingness from governments to do something about it, and since there has been very little disruption to operations, I dont think countries will be dealing with it. Maybe something has to go wrong for it to change. COVID-19 exposing lack of global co-operation It all began with airlines What was the first job you ever held and where in the world was it? What was the first job you held in the shipping/ maritime industry and how did you end up there? If you had not ended up in your current line of work, but done something completely different, what would it be and why? Where in the world did you grow up? What do you do when you need to relax from a hectic work life? Guttormsen believes there will be little improvement unless seafarers are given key worker status, and only then if they are prioritised for vaccination by their respective countries. This could facilitate their travels to and from ships, but if flights remain unavailable, it could be to no avail. The crew-change crisis is disappointing and sad, and confirms that we, as a global community I am not talking about shipping, but the international community cannot find solutions to this, he says. The only solution to dealing with a pandemic, and all these challenges we are facing, is working together. This pandemic has proven that we are not very good at it globally, which is an issue, because this is not going to be the last pandemic. Competing for the younger generation The resilience of the shipping industry during the crisis has however also brought many positives, Guttormsen says. Looking to the future, he hopes one of the benefits will be that younger people will be attracted to the industry, although some may be temporarily deterred from going to sea. The reality is that shipping has been very resilient during the pandemic. Keep in mind that most shipping segments had already done poorly due to weak markets for many years. Many expected that 2020 would be the year when things would start picking up but, except for tankers and gas, that didnt materialise, Guttormsen says. We are not seeing the willingness from governments to do something about it But then the pandemic happened, and companies started to feel financially stretched. Some must by now be very tired of struggling. You would expect that many would surrender, but this has not happened, despite the recovery now being pushed even further out. He points out that the shipping sector is traditionally seen by others and the industry itself, to a point as old-fashioned and unable to adapt. The pandemic has proven otherwise and will likely provide confidence in the future when it comes to being adaptable and dynamic. The crewchange crisis is disappointing and sad We are right now learning as an industry how resilient and adaptive we can be when we have to. That is a positive, because one of the biggest challenges we face in shipping is to make us attractive to the younger generation. That has always been a challenge, says Guttormsen. Not many other industries can say they have stayed this resilient during the pandemic, and I think and hope that it will draw the attention of the younger generation of talent. This display of resilience, he believes, will speed up the development of technological solutions, making investments a lot more attractive in the longer run. I believe the world will continue to be a place for trade and globalism. There has been a setback, but the world has never been as interconnected as it is today. Now, we need to learn how to work together globally something the pandemic has shown that we do not always do well. The crew- change crisis is a good example of that, he says. Connect with BIMCO Facebook Twitter Linkedin YouTube The first job after business school that I can say was the start of my career was at the airline Norwegian, just when the company was launched. It was a very exciting time in a rapidly expanding company. After nearly 10 years in aviation, I got the opportunity to make the move to shipping and joined Stolt Tankers. As a Norwegian, it wasnt a difficult decision and I obviously dont regret making the switch of industries. The two actually have a lot more in common than you would think. I may have ended up as an architect. I seriously considered it, since I had an interest both in the creativity and design as well as the technical aspect of drawing buildings. If it wasnt for me having no talent, I would have loved to have been a musician, playing and making music for a living. I grew up in Oslo, Norway, studied in Melbourne and Barcelona, and have worked in Oslo, Johannesburg, Rotterdam and now, Singapore. I go for long walks in one of Singapores beautiful nature reserves. It gives me the change of environment and peace and quiet to recharge and process thoughts from work and life in general. Covid has made me explore parts of Singapore that I probably never would have seen.