The market volatility over the past three years has kept even the most capable observers guessing about the short-term future of global markets.
Our industry has gone from record trade volume in the 12 months to the third quarter of 2008, to the abyss of late 2008 and 2009, and back to 2008 levels in 2010. It is little wonder observers are watching closely and forecasting cautiously.
Such volatility reinforces the need for the port industry to work hand-in-hand with shipping lines, and with importers and exporters, to ensure we meet their needs. Innovation, diversity and long-term relationships with customers and business partners have always been important; they are even more so in these uncertain times.
During these tough years we’ve all learned to tighten our belts, do more with less, plan carefully and think long term. That’s not to say we stop investing, given the cyclical nature of downturns, but we should channel our investments to maximize the benefits to customers and partners.
There is a growing commitment to sustainability in our sector also, borne of these volatile times. Sustainability calls for creativity, innovation and a return to basics. When the pressure comes, end-users look to the most efficient supply chains. Those typically are characterized by facilities with new technology, well-trained and responsive staff, and modern infrastructure ensuring efficient, secure and environmentally friendly operations.
The industry will take its course, operating and investing prudently but with long-term goals in mind. Navigating through uncertain times requires strategic building of capacity when and where required. Investment this year and beyond needs to focus on the efficient ports and supply chains best equipped to aid recovery, stimulate trade and support sustainable economic growth.