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One Hundred People 2023: Industry influencers adjust outlook as the difficult detail kicks in

The gap between the industry’s rhetoric and reality when it comes to decarbonisation could finally be starting to close

Carbon regulation has once again dominated Lloyd’s List’s annual assessment of influence in shipping, but while the International Maritime Organization may have leapt from laggard to leader in 2023, the rest of the industry is having to adjust previous expectations regarding the pace of change

FOR an industry that proudly boasts its credentials as the carrier of 90% of everything, it is perhaps surprising how little influence it has. The individuals within it, even less so. 

Business as usual sees fortunes beholden to the unpredictable vagaries of geopolitics, war, shifts in demand, congestion and weather.

Yet this is not business as usual. 

The big questions of how to intensify shipping’s decarbonisation, digitalisation and attract the workforce of the future are upending traditional business models amid long-term economic uncertainties and a new energy geography.

Shipping’s most influential figures are the ones who figured out early that they had limited personal agency in such transitions and have exerted what little control they do have on building cross-sector collaboration and understanding the dynamics of the new value chains emerging. 

For the past 14 years, this annual ranking of the movers and shakers of global maritime trade has chartered the evolution of power from the individual to the collective, from the insular to the connected. 



The ranking does not measure scale or volume; it charts the people who are influencing the direction of the industry through their successes, failures, innovations — and, in some cases, sheer force of willpower. 

This Top 100 cohort are less exuberant and less optimistic about the pace of change than in previous years. However, that has been a necessary correction of the credibility gap between the industry’s rhetoric and reality up to this point.

Decarbonisation — being the defining challenge of the age — prompted the industry to race ahead with promises of new ships, new fuels, new digital efficiency and all aligned to the 1.5°C goals of the Paris Agreement. 

Scaling those pilot projects and grand ambitions has proven predictably challenging, but 2023 has seen a more pragmatic approach to progress finally break through. 

Shipping is now in the realm of the difficult detail and it is a promising sign that the greenwash is slipping and companies are prepared to start developing tangible approaches to reducing emissions, rather than just talking about what they might do in the future. 

Much like 2022’s Top 100, regulation has dominated the rankings. However, in 2023, the International Maritime Organization surprised us all by moving from laggard to leader.

Net zero greenhouse gas emissions “by or around” 2050; a 5%-10% uptake of zero or near zero GHG emission fuels; indicative checkpoints demanding emission reduction by 20%, striving to 30%, by 2030; and the adoption of lifecycle GHG assessment guidelines — it all adds up to something of a game changer for the industry’s internal narrative.



This summer’s landmark MEPC80 outcome has offered a credible — if unfinished — pathway to decarbonising shipping.

Yet in doing so, it has stripped away a convenient scapegoat and left many — who had not expected such an ambitious agreement to emerge — rather exposed.

Ships are being ordered and zero-emission fuel production is under development, but at nowhere near the pace required to remain on track with Paris Agreement alignment ambitions that much of the industry professes to be targeting.

It falls to a small band of IMO member state governments to determine what happens from here to 2025, when the IMO adopts the detail of its mid-term measures. 

They top our list of influencers for 2023 because it is they who will ultimately determine the course of shipping’s zero-carbon transition — and, with it, the future of the commercial architecture of the industry.

Yet it is the industry players in this list, from owners and charterers to financiers and technology innovators, who will determine the success or failure of the targets that these governments are setting. 

And, while the pace of the zero-carbon revolution overshadowed almost every strategic decision in 2023, the industry had to sustain some semblance of business as usual. 

That requires them to carry the 12bn tonnes of annual seaborne trade through war zones and economic uncertainty.

Western economies did better than expected in 2023 but are not out of the woods yet, and interest rates staying “higher, for longer” will be painful for companies and consumers alike, even if recessions are avoided. 



The Chinese business leaders who have traditionally dominated this annual list have been grabbing comparatively fewer headlines in 2023. Perhaps they were embracing the Chinese wisdom of doing more and talking less; but it is impossible to ignore the external headwinds of tighter domestic politics, curtailed economic growth and geopolitical turmoil slowing their business momentum. 

Make no mistake, the industry is changing and progress has been made in 2023. Yet, as one our Top 100 cohort wisely pointed out, progress does not always happen in leaps and bounds; it happens in these tiny, incremental steps that accumulate. 

What we are observing here in this annual snapshot of influence is all those little shifts and small steps that, over time, will accumulate to the momentous change that we need as an industry.

As another of our Top 100 noted in 2023, in a world rife with cascading crises — geoeconomic fragmentation, retreating development and climate change — maritime trade serves as a stabilising anchor, holding fast against the turbulent currents of disruption. 

It has become a cliché in maritime circles to even mention it, but the fact that more than four-fifths of all trade in the world flows through the high seas is worth remembering. It includes the crucial trade of food, energy and other essential goods.

And, as recent trade disruptions — most notably that of Black Sea food exports, due to the war in Ukraine — have shown, in our interconnected world, billions of people need open ports and steady ships to eat, keep their lights on, and have their hospitals well-stocked. 

The industry — and our Top 100 in particular — must continue because the world relies on it, even if their ability to influence the world is limited. 

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