Angus R. Cooper II, Chairman and CEO, Cooper/T. Smith Corp.

Angus R. Cooper II, Chairman and CEO, Cooper/T. Smith Corp.

Two matters will disproportionately affect the maritime shipping industry in 2019: ongoing international trade negotiations and the alarming increase in the number of advanced cyber attacks waged against the global shipping supply chain.

Uncertainty surrounding global trade agreements took center stage in 2018.

Last year, the world’s economy was left guessing how international commerce would be impacted as a result of the United States’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership; stalled NAFTA negotiations between the US, Canada, and Mexico; and the threat of US tariffs being levied against traditional trading partners including the European Union.

Today, while there is hope that the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will be finalized and that a “zero tariffs” agreement can be agreed upon between the United States and the European Union, the fate of trade in the Pacific is still largely unknown. As of Nov. 20, 2018, the United States had imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports. Unless an agreement can be made soon, the US may impose new tariffs on an additional $250 billion of Chinese goods and in select cases will raise the tariff from 10 percent to 25 percent.

No segment of the shipping supply chain is left unaffected by the role that digitalization and automation continue to play in transforming the industry. As maritime companies race to implement the newest transformative technologies, the risk of cyber attacks against the shipping industry’s critical networks continues to swell.

Symantec, one of the world’s leading cyber security companies, estimates that the number of ransomware variants increased by 46 percent last year, an alarming trend that will continue in 2019.  Corporate executives must renew their commitment to being hands-on in the execution of their company’s cyber security strategy.

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