Five schools of thought on key maritime issues

Stakeholders often have diverse backgrounds with different interests, which can lead to divergent and conflicting points of view. The competitive maritime industry is marked by power dynamics and competing priorities. Communication can represent a challenge through misunderstandings of terminology, misinterpretation, and cultural differences.

As a result, we have begun to explore more integrative methodologies for capturing the plurality of views to inform decision-making. Acting purely on the ‘average’ perspective will likely disenchant some critical stakeholders. Instead, decision-makers should surface the various schools of thought and take a consensus action based on the different priorities.

Claros, our new methodology, starts with a ChatGTP-generated initial list of issues. A pool of maritime experts was asked to delete from or add to this list. Then they were asked to Q-Sort the revised list of issues into five piles based on their level of agreement. This forced them to identify their priorities, which rating systems don’t. Q methodology is a research method used in psychology and in social sciences to study people’s subjectivity—that is, their viewpoint. Our analysis identified five schools of thought on maritime issues.

People, technology, and biodiversity

This prioritisation calls for balancing technology, nature, climate, and people. The experts place equal importance on the integration of digital technologies such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and automation, as well as biodiversity conservation through addressing the impact of shipping on the maritime natural ecosystem. They also include training and skill development, allowing for adapting to new technologies.


The focus is on decarbonisation and the concrete need to shift towards low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels to reduce shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions. The experts also identify the importance of port decarbonisation, which includes the coordination of major port strategies for decarbonising shipping.

Protection and preservation

This group is also concerned about the environment but bundles this with implications of cyber risks and the human side of operations – crew welfare. The experts prioritise environmental targets and regulations and their enforcement, while emphasising the need for ensuring sufficient shipyard capacity for retrofits and new builds to meet decarbonisation targets. Linked to this is a holistic view of the priority to protect ships and port facilities against cyber threats, as well as the well-being and mental health of seafarers.

Infrastructure and capacity

Ageing infrastructure and the need for necessary upgrades and maintenance of ports, canals, and other maritime facilities, as well as the concern of a mismatch of supply with demand, especially with respect to container shipping capacity, are the key concerns of this school of thought. Addressing these concerns requires accelerated digitalisation, investments in upgrades and maintenance of infrastructure and alternative routes, e.g., rail and road links in the Middle East and Panama

Safety and security

The final group prioritises rising risks caused by manmade shocks like the Ukraine and Palestine conflicts and the United States-China trade and technology war, which cause constraints within and ripple effects across global supply chain networks. Supply chain security is threatened by rising incidents of piracy, especially in the Gulf of Guinea and the Straits of Malacca, while safety is jeopardised by the shadow fleet of ageing, poorly insured tankers, with unclear ownership.

A common theme across the five schools is a concern for people, the environment, and maritime assets caused by today’s world of increased misalignment and tensions, resulting in rising risks, and vulnerability. The good news is that there is a willingness to act and address the challenges.