June 15th 2017
Digital trading and broking platforms won’t be replacing humans anytime soon, a group of leading Greek shipbrokers said in a conference on Thursday.
“They will not work,” said Takis Christofides of Athens-based Carriers Chartering, addressing a crowd of about 300 brokers attending Pireas 2017, the 6th Global Shipbrokers Forum.
To make the point, Christofides, a shipbroking veteran, cited Samuel Johnson’s dictionary of 1755, which described brokers as “untrustworthy persons living at the expense of others, who should be eliminated”.
Almost 300 years later, however, brokers are still around because they’re needed, Christofides argued.
“You just can’t replace the human factor,” agreed George Logothetis of George Moundreas & Company SA.
The fashion for internet shipbroking platforms isn’t new, said Savvas Athanasiadis of Clarksons, citing LevelSeas as an example – a project from the year 2000 that was backed by Shell.
“They spent $40m on it and shut it down a few years later,” he said.
Chartering contracts often include terms so detailed, that only humans can deal with and add value to, Athanasiadis argued.
Platforms could potentially work with capesizes or VLCCs, which often operate on standard terms and routes but it would be difficult to make them work with anything below these sizes, he said.
Vassilis Mouyis of Doric Shipbrokers agreed that digital platforms will probably not spread very widely.
He added, however, that traditional shipbrokers should regard them as a challenge to up their own game.
“If a machine can do something better than humans can, then it will enter our business,” he said.
“We must enhance our capabilities, not just in terms of analysis but in the way we communicate and in terms of emotional intelligence,” Mouyis told the audience.