The Consultancy Race – Some Competition

For quite a while in my articles, I have voiced the view that folks who monopolize the conversations and do all the talking get more attention than others. Indeed, I have noted the outsized influence of one management consultant, which has teamed up with various maritime organizations to offer a patina of <I am not sure what>. Lots of attention, and outbound broadcasting, does not convey unblemished credibility, in my eyes.  Clearly, each scheme to reorganize our massive shipping industry jig-saw puzzle and implement new paradigms comes with some high-priced consultancy services. If this matrix-race cleans up the air, as a byproduct, all the better…maybe.

I am happy to report, and showcase, some long overdue competition in the world of consultancies with an eye on advising shipping companies and other maritime industry “stakeholders”. This past week, I noted that a rival consultant to the other guy, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), has teamed up with American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) to serve the maritime business as it zigs and zags towards the “Medium Term” of 2030, and beyond. This is a welcome development.  Quoting from the Press Release on this subject, ABS and BCG “signed a memorandum of understanding to join their technical and consulting expertise in the maritime and offshore industries, providing joint support to clients’ decarbonization journeys.”

Importantly, Boston, an important outpost of BCG, is the home of a freight-tech cluster. Though some of the Bostonians have allied themselves with the other guys, the new burst of competition is a welcome development.  Again, quoting from material announcing the hookup, “Peter Jameson, Partner and Global Lead for Climate and Sustainability in BCG’s Infrastructure, Transport and Cities practice, said: “High uncertainty around regulation, technology and new markets requires every player across the maritime value chain to work together. Taking a bold leadership position, even with uncertainty, will create an advantage for first movers, and sustainable business for followers.” Actually, BCG has been quite active in applying digitalization to container shipping and supply chains; its initiatives include the application of artificial intelligence to ports, building a marketplace to fill up empty containers with cargo, creating various Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for cargo interests, and carriers, moving containers. They’ve also been involved in applying blockchain to complex supply hookups. Besides all this, BCG has been very active with environmental initiatives. Indeed, the firm was a “Consultancy Partner” at 2021’s “COP26”, which provided fertile ground, capping off 2021’s dramatic ESG spurt of shipping (the highly anti-climactic MEPC 77, held about a month after COP26-  doesn’t count here, sorry guys).

ABS is well known to readers; the member of the International Association of Classification Societies is a leader in the commercial shipping, as well as offshore, segments. It recently highlighted its ABS Wavesight, where a company separate from the non-profit Class society will be able to pursue commercial initiatives in maritime software (and, perhaps, some hardware to go with it).    Again, looking at the announcement of the big hookup, it says: “ABS is built to play in the sweet spot of safety, technology and regulations while BCG is built to play in the sweet spot of strategy, transformation and change management. Bringing these capabilities together will provide a unique offering to help the industry safely unlock value, manage risks and take advantage of opportunities over the life cycle of the clean energy transition in a changing world. Success is a team sport and together ABS and BCG will make a difference.” Bring it on.