Reporting on the heavy lift and project forwarding sector over the course of 2019 has been a pleasure. Everyone at HLPFI would like to extend their gratitude to those that have continued to support this title in what has proven to be a tumultuous year.

Predicting the course that a new decade will take is almost impossible, given the scope and scale of geopolitical, economic and sector-specific issues that must be negotiated.

Regulations coming into force mark uncharted territory for the multipurpose shipping sector, while geopolitical developments, which have impacted trade and financial markets, continue to make investors wary of funding major projects.

Nationalistic leadership is contributing to protectionist policymaking, hindering trade and exposing the vulnerabilities of many economies that form the lifeblood of the project logistics sector, leaving many to question: how did we end up here?

Rather than dealing in uncertainties, let’s consider one fact: the UN expects the global population to hit 8.5 billion by 2030. If we’d like to turn on the lights, heat a home, get to work, and so on, then investments in all types of infrastructure are a necessity – and the skills of the entire project logistics sector will be called upon.

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A whirlwind year

The overarching themes that HLPFI has reported on during 2019 will shape the project logistics industry for years to come. Environmental regulatory changes have taken centre stage and an optimist might say that we are entering a brave new world united in tackling a common climate crisis.

It was just ten ago that the United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, reached an unsatisfactory conclusion, with international media outlets reporting that the climate talks were “in disarray”. Now, we enter 2020 with perhaps the biggest step-change the shipping industry has ever witnessed – the introduction of the 0.5 percent sulphur cap on marine fuels.

As a wider green movement swells, policies are emerging from national governments, states, utilities and insurance companies that aim to put the world on a course towards net carbon neutrality, all of which are changing the project logistics landscape.

Renewable power projects will develop apace. Enhanced turbine performance, attractive incentives and slick supply chains have increased the viability of utility-scale wind power projects in new markets, with the Asia-Pacific region and offshore USA coming into focus. Solar power projects, which continue to increase in size, will increasingly draw on the skills of project logisticians to keep construction schedules on track.

At the same time, demand for fossil fuels will keep growing and, quite frankly, their phase-out in the medium-term is a pipe dream unless there is a truly monumental shift in the way the world consumes and generates its power.

The heady days of cavalier investments into dozens of concurrent, large-scale oil and gas developments are over but demand dictates that projects will continue – albeit on a smaller, rationalised scale.

Demand growth for ‘cleaner’ burning LNG will spur on development of infrastructure to extract and transport that fuel. Global need for countless refined petrochemical products bodes well for those engaged in the downstream project logistics sector. And, while the writing may be on the wall for the coal sector in many markets, demand for ores and minerals will grow unchecked – over-dimensional cargoes supporting infrastructure developments in the mining sector will need to be moved.

Worryingly, project developers are, undeniably, more cost conscious and continue to shift risk down the supply chain. As a result, technology must become the most important weapon at the disposal of those handling heavy and oversize cargoes in the years to come, in order to respond accordingly.

Logistics service providers that serve EPCs and OEMs will need to adopt a level of automation and innovation that we see and use in our daily lives. There has been a steady realisation that innovation is required – and progress is being made.

Uncertainty has been the order of the day for a long time now, but there is also a lot to be proud of. In October we held the inaugural Heavy Lift Awards, which was designed to celebrate and reward the achievements of the heavy lift, specialised transport and project logistics sector in the face of such adversity. The quality of the shortlisted and winning entries demonstrated the magnitude of these accomplishments.

As we enter 2020, the challenges of the past decade will continue but opportunities will also arise. HLPFI is committed to embarking on this rollercoaster journey with you and would like to thank you – our readers, advertisers and sponsors – for your continued support in these turbulent times. Best wishes to you all for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

The full newsletter, which includes our top news of the year, can be seen here.