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Int'l ocean forum opens in Incheon to discuss future of ocean shipping

The opening ceremony of the Incheon International Ocean Forum 2020 is under way at Songdo Convensia in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Thursday. (Yonhap)
The opening ceremony of the Incheon International Ocean Forum 2020 is under way at Songdo Convensia in Incheon, west of Seoul, on Thursday. (Yonhap)
INCHEON -- The first edition of the Incheon International Ocean Forum (IIOF) kicked off in Incheon, a Northeast Asian hub of marine and air transport just west of Seoul, on Thursday, bringing together a large number of maritime industry experts and entrepreneurs from home and abroad to chart the future of the ocean industry.

IIOF 2020, hosted by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and the Incheon metropolitan government and organized by the Incheon Port Authority and South Korea's key newswire Yonhap News Agency, opened at Songdo Convensia in Incheon, just 40 kilometers from Seoul, for a two-day run under the theme of "New Normal, Reboot Ocean Industries," organizers said.

Marine logistics scholars, entrepreneurs and officials from all over the world are visiting Incheon, home to Incheon International Airport, South Korea's main gateway, and Incheon Port, the nation's second-largest seaport, to share in-depth business ideas, new technologies and policies and trends in the maritime industry and pursue business networking during the forum, they said.

Vice Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Park Jun-young, Incheon Mayor Park Nam-choon and Cho Sung-boo, president and CEO of Yonhap News Agency, were among the dignitaries on hand at the opening ceremony, and IIOF 2020 adopted a declaration on the promotion of a sustainable maritime industry.

The forum participants also established the "Ocean Leaders Network," a private-public-academic consultative body, to spearhead efforts to promote cooperation and coexistence among marine cities worldwide and develop the maritime industry.

Mayor Park said in his opening address that he earnestly wishes the first international ocean forum hosted by Incheon would pave the ground for the prosperity of the ocean industry and marine ecosystem conservation. He also declared Incheon the starting point for the era of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Vice Minister Park also expressed a wish that IIOF would lead the future of South Korea's ocean industry and develop into one of the nation's representative global forums.

Tan Chong Meng, group chief executive officer of PSA International; Ditlev Ingemann Blicher, Asia Pacific regional managing director of AP Moller Maersk; and Bae Jae-hoon, CEO and president of HMM Co., gave keynote speeches, analyzing pending issues of the South Korean marine industry and presenting the nation's development path to become a maritime powerhouse in the future.

Tan said the fourth industrial revolution, led by new technologies and digitalization, will further accelerate amid the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global logistics industry and related uncertainties, calling for efforts to learn how to use and manage new technologies.

Blicher also predicted that innovations, such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and data-based logistics, will revolutionize operational methods of logistics and create new opportunities, while the global spread of COVID-19 will speed up changes in the world's supply networks. Both Tan and Blicher delivered a pre-recorded video address.

Bae urged shipping industry executives to prepare for a decline in world cargo volume in the post-COVID-19 era, while forecasting that the industry's paradigm may shift from price competition to service competition.

The forum has four sessions -- ocean cities and ports, maritime and fisheries industry outlook, ocean tourism and ocean environment -- and one special session on inter-Korean cooperation in the logistics industry.

On Thursday, the sessions also focus on establishing cooperation and coexistence networks between Incheon and ocean cities at home and abroad.

During the special session on inter-Korean logistics cooperation slated for Friday morning, Joseph Martin Fischer, former foreign minister and vice chancellor of Germany, will speak on his country's logistics cooperation process leading to the German unification in a pre-recorded online presentation.

Friday's "smart ocean" session will deal with the fourth industrial revolution under way in the maritime sector and ocean digital communications, while the ocean tourism session will concentrate on building a post-COVID-19 marine tourism ecosystem based on the cruise industry.

In consideration of the ongoing spread of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said, the forum is taking place in a hybrid method that combines the in-person Songdo Convensia events and online discussions. For the same reason, only 200 selected people have been invited to the forum's venue and will be seated at socially distanced tables. (Yonhap)
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