A discussion on the future of seafaring and the disruptive trends and implications for continuing talent development and acquisition is an opportunity to “imagineer” (imagine and engineer) the seascape ahead.

Let me start by taking the perspective of strategists and economists.

The world, as we know it today, has entered the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution. An era ushering in social, political, cultural and economic disruption which will increasingly unfold as the 21st century progresses.

Building on the widespread availability of digital technologies that were the result of the 3rd Industrial or Digital Revolution, the 4th Industrial Revolution will be driven largely by the convergence of digital, biological, and physical innovations.

The 4th Industrial Revolution’s breakthroughs, such as artificial intelligence, genome editing, augmented reality, robotics, and 3-D printing, to name a few new technologies, are rapidly changing the way we will create, exchange, and distribute value.

One can only begin to imagine how profoundly these developments will transform institutions and industries and will drive systemic change across all sectors of society.

Our ability to adopt to fast rising technologies, opens-up new frontiers and limitless possibilities for advancement in our way of life.

As the old physical world we knew evaporates and merges into digital, rules of the game, trading patterns, military power, manufacturing processes, transport networks, communication patterns, and even how we will relate and deal with each other - one to one, one to many and many to many, will change.

All these are intended to make a ‘brave, new and better world.’

However, as history has shown, each industrial revolution brought the good and the not so good to people and nation states. With each cycle, immense wealth and power were created; and more so in the last two decades; and with terrifying speed.

The jury is still out as to whether such disruptions have helped reduce poverty or have just exacerbated income disparities.

In today’s environment, what we see is potential for societal upheaval at a global scale, heightened by social media bigotry and bullying, cybersecurity threats, misinformation of a massive scale and potential unemployment.

How we, therefore, formulate our plans and strategies in the period ahead will spell the difference between our being victims of disruption; or, alternatively, our being responsible stewards who shape and transform our sea and landscapes - creating meaning, purpose and structure for what we want to be - our better tomorrow.

We have a unique opportunity to proactively shape the outcomes of the 4th Industrial Revolution for our country and given what we have begun to see globally, drive the deliberate retention of common human values amidst technological progress. This is what MIT calls Mens et Manus – the mind and hand working together to make a better world.

Klaus Schawb describes this as – “a revolution [which] is about much more than technology - it is an opportunity to unite global communities, to build sustainable economies, to adapt and modernize governance models, to reduce material and social inequalities, and to commit to values-based leadership of emerging technologies.”

In the face of such disruptive breakthroughs, my introduction this morning is in effect a “call to action.” To imagineer a vision for developing collaborative and sustainable solutions for our industry, and more importantly our country.

Against this backdrop, one might then ask, what does all this have to do with the world of seafaring?

Today, with ever increasing impact, is a world that is more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, where the rate of change is changing faster than our ability to manage it. Just as we are able to derive the answers to the most pressing concerns, the questions change, the problems are magnified, the challenges become even more perplexing.

We face a future that will be driven by the acronym SMACIT – short for social media, mobile communications, analytics, cloud computing and the internet of things. These elements alone, at their most fundamental levels will disrupt our habits, thinking processes and move us out of our comfort zones.

For a country like the Philippines what does this mean? 

For one, we all need to accept that dealing with rapid development is ‘the new normal.’ This presupposes that we all commit to be “on that train” so that we proactively drive change to enable and secure the future of our people. The only way to sustain such a drive is by ensuring that the approach to Philippine education, at the earliest levels, factors in a real appreciation for STEAM education -  Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math.

Note that the term “the arts” has now been included in what used to be referred to as STEM education. Art has been incorporated to ensure the cultivation of creativity and ingenuity in problem-solving. Developing both analytical and creative thinking, a STEAM education aims to enable students to reach their full potential and to ensure that the more technology takes a hold of our lives, the more human insight and perspective are needed to help nurture our transformation.

Relative to our own industry, over the last few years, we have asked ourselves, how do we attract the best and brightest of the next generations to carry out what each of us has tried to do over the last 40 to 50 years. This cloud has and continues to hang over the current generation of stakeholders.

A starting point would be to understand future generations – the millennials and Gen Z – and what their interests are. Connecting their aspirations and mindset with what our industry will need to excel in the future, is critical.

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I have often wondered why we in the Philippines have focused on promoting only careers at sea. With shipping being responsible for the movement of 90 % of world trade, and with one out of every four global maritime professionals being Filipino, our country plays a significant role in the global maritime seascape.

And so perhaps, we should expand our efforts to attract the best and the brightest not only into the seafaring profession, but more importantly into the maritime industry as a whole.

In the years ahead, the transition from ship to shore will be as important as it was in the first transition of Filipinos on board and into present positions of leadership. This time around, however, there is the added challenge of growing automation on board and, therefore, the need for greater and different competencies from the neck up.

As change continuous to evolve, particularly in transforming work functions, there will be a transition period, particularly for those on board. Meanwhile, those in the pipeline, the next generations, will need to have a real understanding of SMACIT and STEAM in order to have the flexibility to compete effectively over time.

The value of this inaugural Safety4Sea Conference in Manila can best be appreciated in the program that it has put together, which covers: Talent acquisition, Shaping and Challenging the Needed Skills Sets, Staying Healthy, and Next Gen Perspectives.

Against these points of discussion, let me share with you trending topics that our industry is dealing with:

  1. Safety considerations in attitude and mindset across all industry stakeholders – driven by the theme – Together in Safety; while unleashing the power of collaboration in getting things done;
  2. De-carbonization – the need for each of us to “Take the Lead” in our own ways, driven by growing societal demands for achieving zero emissions sooner rather than later. Just last week, over 11,000 scientists from around the world signed a manifesto seeking urgent and concerted global action on climate issues;
  3. Talent Acquisition - understanding and defining the work force of the future – managing through diversity, flexibility, and automation, among others in order to attract the best and brightest; and
  4. Eliminating Waste – driving productivity by merging the physical and the digital – which in reality is at the heart of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

These topics can certainly be applied across all facets of maritime.

The main question, though, that we should ask ourselves is this – are we in the Philippines ready for this future?

Are we, as individuals, as companies, as institutions – both private and public – ready for change and ready to change?

The challenge remains – disrupt today what we do and how we think, or else, be prepared to be disrupted.

Unless we as a country, as a people and as leaders of our respective communities, industries and companies adopt a total change in mind set, and manage this from the front, we will not have the inertia and momentum to keep up with the rest of the world.

The train has left the station and we need to get on it, to maintain the Philippines’ status as the “seafaring capital,” and the Filipino, as the “seafarer of choice.

Safety4Sea prides itself in its mission to promote safer, smarter and greener shipping. For this to come through and drive forward, within the Philippine maritime industry, and for the various publics we serve, we have to ensure a mindset change that drives a new view towards people, process and technology.

Understanding the global shipping industry and its reach, is a must.

Recognizing that what got us to where we are today, will not get us to where we need to be, is another “must”. Unless we adapt and disrupt, addressing the evolving issues, anticipating the future, we will be lost in terms of how the game will play out in the years ahead.

Interestingly enough, throughout history, we have evolved the use of the seas and oceans to drive development, global trade and humanity.

No different than PTC’s vision “to move the world in more ways than one”.

Let me share with you the following passage, which I have paraphrased:

“Shipping is a noble activity, useful beyond all other [undertakings] to mankind.

It exports what is [in excess], it provides what is lacking, it makes the impossible possible, it joins together men from different lands, and makes every inhospitable island a part of the mainland, it brings fresh knowledge to those who sail, it refines [behavior], it brings [friendship] and [development] to [all], it consolidates [life] by bringing together all that is most human in [people.]”

You might think that those words reflect the industry today. In fact, the phrase dates back to the 13th century and is attributed to George Pachymeres, a Byzantine philosopher and teacher, and the leading historian and scholar of his time.

As far back as then, he recognized the essence of this industry that we celebrate today.

The challenging trends we presently face, are in many ways no different from the range of challenges that our forefathers faced – equally disruptive of life at each period of time. But they overcame, and so can we.

The Darwinian Theory of Survival of the Fittest aptly describes humanity’s ability to figure things out in order to survive – what we describe as the resiliency factor.

Let us then seize the opportunity to continue to drive our country forward, capitalizing on our ability to operate responsibly, collaborate effectively, focusing on the future, and leading from the front.

In short, the call to action for all of us, enabled by today’s Safety4Sea Manila Forum is to renovate, evolve, and transcend the mindset. The mindset needed to effectively thrive in the 4th Industrial Revolution. The mindset that will define the Future of Seafaring for the Philippines and ensure that a Filipino global maritime professional, will sail on every vessel, in every sea, moving the world.

Above article is an edited version of Mr. Borromeo’s presentation during 2019 SAFETY4SEA Manila Forum

You may view his video presentation herebelow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.


About Gerardo A. Borromeo, Vice-Chairman Chief Executive Officer, Transmarine Carriers 

Mr. Gerardo A. Borromeo is the Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Transmarine Carriers (PTC) Group of Companies.

Mr. Borromeo has been responsible for the development and implementation of the PTC Group’s strategic initiatives and business development activities involved in ship and crew management, maritime education and training; chartering, ship agency, logistics and freight forwarding; as well as in medical diagnostics; travel services; fuel distribution and renewable energy development; offshore business processing; property development; and international professional placement.

He currently serves as Vice Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, a premier global shipping organization representing around 80% of the world’s merchant tonnage. He is also the President of InterManager, an international trade association for the global ship management industry whose membership comprises inhouse and third party ship managers. Mr. Borromeo is the first Filipino to be elected unopposed to this leading post.

Concurrently, he is the Vice President for External Affairs of the Filipino Shipowners Association, and is a private sector Board Director of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) of the Philippines. For his invaluable contributions to the Philippine maritime industry, Mr. Borromeo was honored by MARINA
with the TIMONEL Maritime Achievement Award in 2014.

He is a member of the Board of the Directors of the PTCCSJ Foundation, as well as the US Philippine Society, and the Executive Board of the World Maritime University.

Mr. Borromeo earned his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA. He continues to represent MIT as a Regional Chair and Educational Counselor for the Philippines and has been recognized with the MIT George B. Morgan Award for sustained excellence in educational council activity.