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Changing tack : defining a strategic direction for innovation in the United Kingdom shipping industry

Robinson, John Edward


John Edward Robinson


Wendy J. Gregory


In the early 1980s technology presented the shipping community with an opportunity to offload its moribund communications infrastructure in favour of a satellite based electronic umbilical that promised to revolutionise communications with ships at sea. The development received less than enthusiastic support.

Towards the end of the last century, twenty years after satellite communications offered a viable alternative, the vast majority of ships were still using Morse code as their primary means of communication. Despite attempts to delay its mandatory introduction the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) was the catalyst that ultimately led to the demise of this antiquated system of communication. A similar scenario exists in the navigation arena, where shipping organisations invariably wait for legislation to compel them to change.

This culture of innovation resistance is ubiquitous in the shipping industry and its origins seem to lie mainly in historical traditions and in the isolation that has for centuries been intrinsic to life at sea. Competitive challenges driven by shrinking innovation life-cycles, increasing globalisation, and growing demands for improved customer service creates new opportunities for flexible organisations but presents serious threats to traditionalists.

Cultural change in the UK shipping industry is an essential precursor to creating a climate in which innovation can flourish. The route to cultural change however demands a holistic approach and necessitates a fundamental understanding of the iterative processes of change. After illustrating this concept in a model I draw on empirical evidence and relevant theories to support my argument that a culture of innovation in the shipping industry can best be achieved through the development and adoption of organisational structures based on a virtual learning organisation.


Robinson, J. E. (2003). Changing tack : defining a strategic direction for innovation in the United Kingdom shipping industry. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jul 25, 2014
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of School
Award Date Jan 1, 2003


Thesis (15.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2003 Robinson, John Edward. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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