As with the whole of the maritime industry, the biggest challenge Maersk subsidiary Svitzer faced in 2020 was the global coronavirus pandemic
Covid-19 has led to challenges delivering crew changes, forced remote working for shore teams and has changed the towage environment, with the worst slump in passenger shipping in living memory reducing towage demand in the cruise sector. But Svitzer has pulled through and expanded regional fleets through the pandemic.
“Covid-19 has been a struggle for everyone,” said Svitzer chief executive Kasper Friis Nilaus. “This pandemic is still very much upon us and the struggle is still real.”
He highlighted the key challenges Covid-19 brought to the group.
“Colleagues at sea missed out on family time, birthdays and vacations because they were stuck on prolonged stays on board – and colleagues were stranded in lockdown on shore, keeping the business running from the kitchen table without seeing friends or colleagues for months,” Mr Nilaus said.
“If I was asked to pick the biggest challenge Svitzer faced in 2020, I would say ensuring that our people were safe and keeping our tugs manned and operating at all times.”
But there is some light at the end of the tunnel with vaccine programmes being initiated in many countries across the globe, he continued, while summarising the positive learnings Svitzer has made from the pandemic. “The biggest learning has been what we can achieve if we work together and put our minds to it,” Mr Nilaus said.
Svitzer has come through the pandemic so far, and should survive with a stronger business and larger fleet in 2021. The reason for this is collaboration, network and perseverance, said Mr Nilaus.
“Internally, by working together and pulling in the same direction, we have managed to keep playing our small, yet critical, role in the global maritime supply chain,” he said.
He thanked colleagues across Svitzer for playing their part in keeping ports and terminals open, enabling trade including vital goods, food and medicine to keep flowing worldwide. “I am highly impressed by the way people have leveraged and shared global experience, knowledge and support across a vast organisation – simply insisting on going that extra mile every day, not giving in, even when the sail was rough,” Mr Nilaus said.
“Also externally, we have seen collaboration like never before,” he continues. “Through the pandemic, we have worked closely with our sister brands in Maersk, with customers and local communities and with national authorities and non-governmental entities to find solutions to seemingly impossible roadblocks,” Mr Nilaus added.
“Ultimately, it is collaboration and perseverance across the industry over time that has kept trade running and enabled us to perform the much-needed crew changes, to relieve our people and keep manning our tugs.
“It was never easy, but the community and collaboration has been remarkable, and none of us could have done it alone.”
He is confident Svitzer will come out of the pandemic stronger. It will have a larger fleet in Australia, where Svitzer is adding three tugs for its operations in Port of Geraldton. And in the UK as it is preparing for the arrival of Svitzer Thames to the Port of London.
“At Svitzer, the current global crisis has shown us that when we are agile and able to adapt, we can take on more than we ever thought possible,” said Mr Nilaus.
“We are determined to turn our recent learnings, our global footprint and our size into clear value for our customers and the ports and communities we service.”
Mr Nilaus recognised Covid-19 had accelerated change in the maritime industry and this will affect towage operations.
“As an industry, we are looking at a near future where data, digitalisation, innovation and a demand for greener solutions are likely to change and even disrupt our business,” he said. “We are determined to face and even drive the changes required,” he concluded.
Industry leaders will be discussing key sector challenges and survival solutions during Riviera’s Offshore Webinar Week, from 19 January 2021 - use this link to access more details and to register for these key webinars