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Planning, Sustainability, and Technology – “Oh My!”: A VMA Recap

Advanced planning, new technology, and sustainability are topics that dominated the conversation at the Virginia Maritime Association’s International Trade Symposium this year. During this two-day conference, industry leaders discussed and expanded on these ideas as they grappled with the current state of our industry and gave their perspective on the best way to move forward.

Two terms that were continually focused on throughout the gathering were “customer service” and “creative solutions.” Much of the discussion focused on the need for more human interaction and the value of creative solutions from experts in the industry who can problem solve situations that technology is not currently equipped to untangle.

One of the ways it was suggested to achieve this is for shippers to prioritize having a deep understanding of their supply chain. This idea of knowing your supply chain, being prepared, and planning in advance was seen to be essential for the future of logistics, as this could help the industry take advantage of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

“It was refreshing to hear experts from every corner of our industry show their commitment to ideas and trends we have been advising for the past two years, including the importance of planning ahead and working with an advisor who can problem solve when the supply chain does not operate in its normal condition,” explained Anthony Fullbrook, President of OEC Group’s Northeast Region. “Between ongoing inventory issues, exploding e-commerce demand, and current and future regulations, it’s clear that the need to ‘know your supply chain’ is a priority that is both multifaceted and absolutely necessary.”

Another topic that received significant attention was the intersection of tech and sustainability. During the conference, it was revealed that the industry could expect a shift from LNG to biofuels and ammonia.

Additionally, it was revealed that while the industry’s focus tends to be on sustainable vessels and trucks, rail is also seeking more sustainable options. Specifically, CSX outlined that there are ongoing initiatives at the company, working alongside the EPA, to develop biodiesel solutions that are not just green, but are also just as reliable as any traditional rail service for their customers.

“There is a real market for sustainable options and many shippers want to begin accessing these up-and-coming climate conscious options as soon as possible,” said Logan Cooper Senior Regional Traffic Manager out of OEC Group’s St. Louis office. “I am encouraged by the direction of our industry, and I think these exciting and achievable sustainable initiatives are important developments we can all get behind.”
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