What a Week for London

As the lanyards are discarded and the business cards filed away at the end of a busy, exciting and important week for the shipping industry in London and…

As the lanyards are discarded and the business cards filed away at the end of a busy, exciting and important week for the shipping industry in London and the UK, the first impression the ‘morning after the night before’ was of a job well done by everyone involved in making a success of the inaugural London International Shipping Week (LISW).

Naturally it was also a busy week for BLUE. Following an excellent preview event, hosted by the UK Chamber of Shipping on how UK shipping can maximise the PR potential of LISW, BLUE’s first port of call last week was an event hosted by the International Bunker Industry Association. The key themes may not have been new – the historically high cost of bunker fuel, the pressures of environmental regulations, the options for future fuels, distillate availability and the lack of credit in the shipping industry – but it was a welcome opportunity to revisit these topics within the context of London’s role in the maritime industry and the impact of Asia’s growth on trade patterns and shipping markets; not to mention a comprehensive update on the possible bunker fuels of the future; anyone for algae?

‘Ship Efficiency: The Event’, organised by Fathom, placed a firm focus on ship efficiency technologies and fuel saving solutions. The many exhibitors and speakers included International Paint, NAPA and United Kingdom Hydrographic Office – all BLUE clients – as well as a multitude of others; clear evidence of the appetite within the shipping industry for credible and innovative technology solutions that can deliver that crucial few percentage points in fuel efficiency.

The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office brought its renowned ECDIS workshop to London as one of the cornerstone events of LISW. Held at the IMO headquarters, the workshop was free to attend and focused on how best to embed ECDIS within bridge procedures in a safe, compliant and efficient way. The role that ECDIS can play in supporting safe navigation on a vessel and across a fleet has implications for all parts of the shipping industry; not just bridge officers, ship owners and managers, but also the providers of essential maritime professional services, such as the investors, insurers, underwriters, brokers, surveyors and others that are so well represented in London.

Whilst not part of LISW, last week also saw the annual exhibition of the International Marine Purchasing Association, or IMPA, take place in central London, with an array of suppliers of maritime products and services promoting their wares, so BLUE also took the opportunity to visit and catch-up with a few of our clients that were present.

Thursday’s LISW Conference was the centrepiece of the week and an outstanding line-up of speakers shared their views on a variety of topics, covering shipping markets, finance, maritime security, regulations and, of course, London’s position within the global maritime industry. To offer a few snapshots, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu made the interesting point that the cost of compliance with environmental regulations needs to be shared equally with society, rather than being pushed solely onto shipping. Martin Stopford noted the demise of the in-house technical department in shipping companies and suggested that the global fleet needs to reduce by 20-25% to restore some supply-demand balance to shipping markets, whilst Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, explained how the deployment of physical navy assets to high-risk waters is just a small part of the fight against piracy and reassured the audience about the security of the Suez Canal. Dominic Casserley, CEO of Willis Holdings, gave his insight into how the insurance market will develop a more diverse range of products for the maritime market in response to the increasingly diverse range of vessels, routes and shipping operations, whilst Alderman Roger Gifford, the Lord Mayor of London, summed up the attraction of London as “where the world’s maritime industry comes to raise capital, manage risk and procure world class maritime products and services.”

Refreshingly – unless you were hoping for a decent dust-up – there was considerable consensus that London has actually benefited from the rise of other shipping hubs. It was pointed out that London has played a crucial role in the development of Singapore as a maritime hub, that it gives London the opportunity to export its expertise in maritime professional services and that everyone benefits from the global growth of the maritime economy. One of the most nuanced assessments of the status enjoyed by the world’s leading maritime cities came from Denis Petropoulos, Director of Braemar Shipping Services, who described London as ‘the Maritime Capital’, Singapore as ‘the Maritime Cluster’, Shanghai as a ‘Maritime Cluster’ and New York as ‘a Maritime Gateway’.

With attention turning to the Gala Dinner taking place on Thursday evening, the view of all conference attendees seemed to be that London International Shipping Week had done a great job of turning the international spotlight onto the many and varied areas of world-leading maritime expertise and capabilities that London can offer the global maritime industry. Here’s looking forward to the next one.