In the run-up to the 30th international maritime trade fair SMM, everyone I spoke to had similar advice about visiting Hamburg for one of shipping’s biggest events: wear comfortable shoes. I soon realised why after racking up 17,000+ steps on the first day alone, according to my Google Fit app.
The sheer size and scale are difficult to comprehend until you’ve walked (or dashed for your next meeting) through the vast hangars featuring 2,000 companies that range from fledgling start-ups to shipping’s leading players, and everything in-between.
Rows and rows of exhibitors showcasing the latest digital and decarbonisation technology shared floor space with service providers, suppliers, manufacturers and more. Everyone was keen to chat, connect and engage with each other at one of, if not the, industry’s largest gatherings since the pandemic. In four days, SMM attracted more than 30,000 visitors from 100+ countries.
One of the exhibitors was the UK Hydrographic Organisation (UKHO), with representatives sharing insights into digitalisation and safer navigation during three panel sessions throughout the week. Peter Sparkes, Chief Executive of the UKHO, spoke about how the next generation of navigation technology will boost positional and situation awareness, resulting in smarter, faster decisions for operating vessels and increasing safety and security for mariners.
Tom Mellor, Head of Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Technical Support and Digital Standards at the UKHO, discussed how enhanced connectivity was key to the next generation of navigational systems. He explained how this would enable the UKHO, through its ADMIRALTY products and services, to provide chart and mapping updates in near real-time to vessels around the globe.
What followed was a Q&A – moderated by BLUE’s managing director Alisdair Pettigrew – with Peter, Tom and Jason Scholey, Senior Product Manager for the UKHO. They answered questions from attendees on topics such as ECDIS and navigational charts, the S-100 standards and seafarers’ safety.
When time permitted, I wandered around the exhibition halls to check out a few of the many stands on display. It was great to see some of BLUE’s other clients exhibiting at SMM including Wärtsilä, W&O, NAPA, Norsepower, and Silverstream, amongst many others.
There were several highlights from my four-day stay in Hamburg, including visiting a new city and attempting (unsuccessfully) to speak German, seeing clients in person and spending time with work colleagues (incredibly intelligent, engaging and fun people to be around).
Away from the exhibition itself, I attended a drinks reception at the International Maritime Museum. The event, organised by Hansa International Maritime Journal, was hosted on the first floor of a beautifully renovated warehouse, with guests enjoying champagne and canapes while being serenaded by a string quartet. What’s not to love about making new connections in a lavish setting?
My colleagues and I also enjoyed an incredible seafood dinner with our friends from Bureau Veritas and Airseas at a waterside location opposite a building shaped, aptly, like a ship. Work hard in the day, play harder at night was the mantra for an exhausting but exhilarating week at one of the biggest B2B events I’ve ever attended (comparable to the aviation shows in Dubai and Paris).
For many, the novelty of travelling abroad following the pandemic has yet to wear off. Fortunately for me, I work in an industry, and for a company, where facetime with clients, friends, colleagues and new connections is actively encouraged. If you want to see the world, get a job in maritime.