Blue MBA graduation ceremony reminds of urgent need of talent in the shipping industry
Prominent maritime personalities, including a leader at the world’s largest container shipping company and a key figure in the marine insurance sector, were among those congratulating graduates from the Class of 2017 of the Executive MBA in Shipping & Logistics, a programme based at Copenhagen Business School.
In an emotional ceremony on August 12, 2017, the gowned participants in the course – known as the Blue MBA – were cheered by an audience of family, friends and colleagues as they were granted permission to switch the tassel from the right to the left side of their academic caps, signifying their lauded achievement.
Among the speakers, Søren Toft, chief operating officer of the redoubtable Maersk Line since 2014, emphasised that “we very much need” talent in the shipping business. His explanation of “why we need to get great people to overcome the challenges of tomorrow: remember we are first and foremost in a service industry. Yes, we need assets – but it all really starts with the customers.”
He declared: “Our industry needs talent, it needs passion and a bit of bravery to overcome challenges.”
The “old fashioned industry” was seeking ways to renovate itself. In an implicit reference to the painful market downturn of the last few years, Søren Toft said that the very fragmented maritime industry was “seeing some growth rebound” as more consolidation took place “towards a more sane industry.”
One such step is the planned acquisition by Maersk Line of Hamburg Süd, and Mr Toft said: “We are doing this because we believe consolidation is good for the industry and it gives the opportunity to offer to our customers better products. We need to find a way to offer more service” and to embrace technology: “we need skillsets we did not have before. It is for that reason we need to attract the brightest minds to enter a truly international work setting.”
As to that last point, he underlined that at his company’s headquarters more than 70 nationalities were working – “something not only unique in Denmark, but unique in the world. We are on a journey not only business-wise, but on a journey culture-wise.”
He recognised the sacrifice of private time that the Blue MBA graduates had made, but recalled from his study for an executive MBA (from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland) that the experience could be “a lot of fun.” Mr Toft joined the Maersk Group in 1994 as a management trainee, and has had leadership roles in Denmark, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands. Maersk Line operates 630 boxships, has 7,600 seafarers and 22,400 land-based employees at 306 offices in 114 countries.