LONDON INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING WEEK 2017
Over 160 functions attended by 15,000 visitors from all around the globe, countless opportunities for networking and building new relationships, and enough roller banners, name badges and hors d'oeuvres to put the world’s biggest conferences to shame. You guessed it: London International Shipping Week returned in 2017 to rapturous enthusiasm across all sectors of the shipping industry.
Starting on September the 11th, with a theatrical opening of the London Stock Exchange, complete with welcome messages scrolling across the iconic LCD tickers, the week progressed with a cavalcade of talks, meetings and conferences. Covering everything in the maritime arena from brokering to bunkering, and with impressive keynote speakers such as Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s, and Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox MP, there was a general feeling amongst attendees that this year’s LISW represented a coming of age for the event. And perhaps this comes not a moment too soon for British shipping.
I note this of course because Brexit looms on the horizon, and with it, some degree of uncertainty. Whilst the event paid homage to Britain’s storied and prestigious maritime heritage with the ABP sponsored Exmouth Shanty Men brightening up the morning commute, belting outrousing song at Bank underground station, it was the future of the industry that thematically permeated LISW 2017. Should Britain pay attention to PwC’s ‘Economic Outlook Report’ that states export performance to have been stronger outside the Single Market than inside the EU over the past decade, and look to emerging foreign markets? Will the government’s plan to double the size of the UK Ship Register from 16 to 30 million in gross tonnage come to fruition and ensure the Red Duster’s place on the high seas? These are the questions that must be approached if Britain is to take advantage of the concentration of skills and potential in Britain’s maritime clusters such as Solent and Humberside and, of course,London.
Even without taking Brexit into account, it is fitting that futurology was a prominent theme during the event. Digitisation is going to have a massive effect on shipping, according to a recent report by the Business Performance Innovation Network entitled “Competitive Gain in the Ocean Supply Chain: Innovation That’s Driving Maritime Operational Transformation”. The ocean supply chain is suffering from massive and costly inefficiency due to poor data sharing and cross-industry collaboration. Access to information and supply chain visibility can improve this situation, but only if the industry loses any resistance to enter the digital age. This challenge and the one posed by Brexit require cultural change, debate and the exchange of ideas. People are looking towards the maritime industry for the enterprising spirit that will keep Britain thriving. The leaders of the industry need to be at the helm; they can’t leave our maritime nation rudderless. It is at events like LISW 2017 that the unified plans for moving forward can be forged, and beyond the networking, politics and deals made, the opportunity for the industry to come together and plot acourse is where the true value of London International Shipping Week lies.
It is not just the grand strategies that make the event,though. LISW provides a platform for all kinds of endeavours,and this year in particular was immensely important to me, as I saw two projects that are very close to me reach the thousands of industry figures there. Firstly, I could raise awareness of the plight of ‘The Chennai 6’, a group of British maritime security experts imprisoned by a miscarriage of justice in the line of duty when docking for essential supplies in India. The organisers of the event were kind enough to allow a viewing of a film made by me and the families of the men at major conferences during the week, ‘The Chennai 6 – A Miscarriage of Justice’. The film was screened 26 times throughout. Not only were we able to reach a number of influential people, but we were overwhelmed by the support shown by people in the industry, who really appreciate and understand the value of security at sea. At the same time, the British media showed their very best side as beacons of truth and democracy, with the BBC and others relaying information about The Chennai Six on TV and radio. It seems now everyone who hears the story sympathises with the group, and respectfully implore the government to do more to secure the safety of the men. For all those who took the time to hear us out, and those who gave us the opportunity to show our film and broadcast the campaign, I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our push continues, and will do so until justice prevails and The Chennai Six are free.
Secondly, as part of my voluntary role as Campaign Lead at the ‘Be Cyber Aware at Sea’ initiative, I spoke at 8 events in cyber maritime security and safety. There could hardly be a better opportunity to communicate the importance of cyber security awareness in the ever-changing industry. I have long maintained that such matters should not be palmed off to IT experts on a company payroll, and that an understanding and pragmatic approach by senior leadership teams is the key to forming the institutional cyber safety cultures that avoid financial loss and business disruption wrought by cyber-attacks. Defending shipping from hackers and criminals is not a box ticking exercise but a continuous process that involves all levels of an organisation, from boardroom executives to shore side staff and onboard crew. Thankfully I was overwhelmed by how much has changed in just a few short years, with maritime experts becoming increasingly switched on to the scale and inevitability of attacks. Again, positivity and a can-do attitude permeated the event, and wasexemplified by the launch of 8 informational videos created by ‘Be Cyber Aware at Sea’ on the website of leading marine law firm HFW.
A personal high point of the week for me was receiving a high commendation as an 'unsung hero' for my work on raising global awareness and supporting colleagues on and off shore at the Safety at Sea awards. IHS Safety at Sea Magazine of course concentrates on one of the most vitally important aspects of our industry: the welfare of those who brave the oceans. To be recognised by this prestigious organisation in the presence of Mr Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation and many other distinguished guests, was an absolute honour.
London International Shipping Week 2017 drew to a close… and I felt exhausted, but elated. The close-knit maritime community seemed more unified and focused than ever and the organisation and effort put into the event was in no small way responsible for that. As I enjoyed the superb hospitality of many including Richie Blake & Sally Aston of Döhle Yachts, Peter Broadhurst and the Inmarsat team at City Road, as well as the legendary Dick Walsh of the Isle of Man Registry at their atmospheric networking reception at Tower Bridge. Enjoying the majestic view of the Thames from the iconic landmark of Britain’s maritime past, I couldn’t help but look out to the sea, and forward to what I'm sure is a very bright and exciting future for the UK maritime industry globally!