Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO, Montreal Port Authority

Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO, Montreal Port Authority

In the trade environment, we have witnessed the first complete year under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement since coming into force preliminarily on Sept. 21, 2017, and it has since yielded real benefits. The year 2018 also saw the signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which mitigates the looming uncertainty around the North American Free Trade Agreement and should help stimulate investor confidence into 2019.

The maritime sector in 2018 witnessed two developments that should have deep and defining consequences into 2019. Ocean carriers have significantly stepped up their efforts to meet the pending IMO 2020 emission standards. 2019 will be critical as the final sprint leading to January 2020 will reveal how ocean carriers will bear the additional costs. Another significant development has been an organizational turn by ocean carriers toward end-to-end (E2E) solutions providers. Maersk’s prominent reintegration of Damco and CMA CGM’s acquisition of CEVA have so far led the way.

While similar efforts have been attempted in the past, this new wave is based on emerging digital capabilities such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and predictive modeling; a model somewhat closer to the leading e-commerce giants predicated on leveraging massive data. The year 2019 will be a test for this new model and reveal if the trend will be sustained and adopted more widely.  

Finally, we note that the maritime industry has accelerated its digital transformation in 2018, a feature that we see as lasting and likely to further accelerate in 2019. A race for innovation as the new differentiator is leading to transformative change in an attempt to introduce new digitally driven business models.

Whether centered on blockchain with Maersk-IBM’s Tradelens likely to go head-to-head against Ocean Alliance’s GSBN, on innovation programs based on start-ups such as CMA CGM’s ZeBox or on data standardization as the mandate of newly formed consortium of carrier chief information officers, the year 2018 will be seen as marking the beginning of a generalized digitization drive among carriers.

This development is welcome by the port community.

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