Conference Scene- FOMA (Fear of Missing Out)

FOMA-“fear of missing out”. That’s about the only way I can describe my dilemma with all of the webinars and online events that seem to be going on simultaneously. With a bank of multiple computers (smart phones are not optimal here) and various voice recorders (for grabbing quotes for articles- can’t always wait for the replays), the past week or two has been challenging, to say the least. Capital Link has been at the center of New York Maritime Week, going back to pre-virtual days (anybody remember those?) and has transitioned its event very well to an online venue. While the architecture of the whole thing is not in my wheelhouse, the big tent fits nicely above individual Zoom presentations on critical topics. Like the in-person conferences, they divide into outlooks for individual market sectors- with stock analysts or lawyers moderating panels of company executives, and then fresh developments. This year, throughout the plethora of online venues, the new topics are all about fuels, with digitalization type issues running a distant second. Forget IMO2020, that’s so last year, with “spreads” now around $70- $80 per ton. Importantly, I learned of an authoritative new study indicating that scrubbers have CO2 reduction benefits (in addition to pulling out sulfur). When monetized in a carbon credit world (in my dreams at this point), there is an additional payoff beyond the abovementioned spread.

The Capital Link event has excelled in one vital area where others have lagged behind- or not been there at all, which is what I call “personal networking”. In the chat area, I have indeed “connected” with folks whom I have known in person through the years, often from conference settings. Small text type messages go a long way- they cement the all-important bonds with industry participants; in the instant case, I caught up with a gent now working out of Geneva, Switzerland and another fellow who moved over to Greece a few years back. On the other events where I spent time, one had some first class panels (though in a virtual world, panelists can event-hop sans geographical constraints) but lacked any type of a networking interface. The other, also with some good panels, had a very cludgy chat interface. Of course, I use Firefox (not Chrome, as the organizer’s’ tech proxies were mandating) with a bunch of script-blockers, so my digital difficulties might have been self-inflicted. In between all this, there was some outreach on YouTube from a different group, all good, but it is still a form of uni-directional “broadcasting” when the comments are disabled.

But what are all the speakers, panelists and attendees discussing? Looking back to a year ago, it was all about IMO2020, the move to fuels with lower sulfur content; at that time, pundits suggested that things would “normalize” (however defined) by early 2021. But the issues presented in this week’s conference arena will not be solved until 2050- thirty years out, with some waypoints around 2030 and 2040. There seems to be a sense that LNG is a real path forward. And, if the tech and carbon capture Gods cooperate, then LNG may play a role in producing zero emission hydrogen to propel us all forward. No doubt, there will be many venues, both online and in-person (maybe the hybrid approach will be the way to go), where such things can be discussed. I hope that I don’t miss out on any of the good presentations and convos.