Maritime’s proud history – a look ahead, By Martine Frost, Jeanius Consulting Ltd
The Shipping Professional Network in London (SPNL), together with Bibby Ship Management, hosted an event at the UK Chamber of Shipping this week to hear views and opinions on the future of maritime in London and the next generation in shipping.
The guest speakers for the event were two prominent leaders from the maritime industry – Marcus Bowman, the upcoming President of the UK Chamber of Shipping and a partner at Holman Fenwick Willan, and Sir Michael Bibby, Managing Director of Bibby Line Group Ltd.
Speaking with the benefit of 25 years’ experience as a maritime lawyer/litigator in London, Marcus’ opinion is that London, as a professional service provider, is very well equipped to meet the needs of the business community in the maritime sector.
Since becoming the first centre for maritime law in the 17th century, London has maintained its eminence as a legal centre. Even though the first and only Marine Insurance Act was passed in 1906, Marcus believes that the system is flexible and strong enough to adapt to the changing needs of the shipping community.
Marcus acknowledged that maritime lawyers in London have a reputation for being ‘expensive’. He admitted that there may be some truth in this, partly because London is an expensive place to do business, but countered this with the fact that London has created the most incredibly responsive and adaptable body of law for the business of maritime.
He stressed the importance of maritime law and the services it provides to the maritime industry. English law and London arbitration govern many contracts for the operation of ships and the carriage of goods. Wherever maritime law is practised in the world, there is invariably a huge influence of English law.
Marcus also said that “clients really only like us when they needs us and, when they don’t need us, they really don’t want to see us!”
Sir Michael spoke from a personal viewpoint and, as a shipowner based in Liverpool, his input added another dimension to the debate.
Whilst acknowledging that London has the people, money, stability and framework to do business well, Sir Michael also said that, with increasing competition both nationally and internationally, London couldn’t rely on its history.
Businesses these days need to change and be looking forward. There needs to be an investment in people. People need to be given the chance to not only show their skills, but be allowed to take risks and be prepared to fail.
Sir Michael highlighted 3 key areas of professional services in London that need to look at how they work and ways they can be better.
Firstly, banking has great teams of expertise in London. However, the traditional banks have become ‘risk averse’, particularly in the marine sector and this has given overseas banks the opportunity to step in and fill the gap.
Secondly, despite the great legal expertise in London, there is a danger of complacency within the profession. London has the rules and the people, but needs to “keep on its toes!”
Thirdly, the depth of talent in the insurance sector is excellent. However, steps must be taken to ensure that products continue to develop to meet customers’ needs.
Sir Michael believes that innovation and creativity are key. The younger generation must be given opportunities to try out new ideas and new ways of working. The challenge is for the next generation to keep relevant and ahead of the competition.
In conclusion, he posed 2 related questions:
“Are you too expensive if based in London?” and “Does it really matter where you are based?”
The answers to these are for another day!
SPNL has created a platform for young professionals to engage, empower and connect. 2013 has been a phenomenal year for them, as they continue to grow and gain recognition within the maritime sector. They are especially grateful to the UK Chamber of Shipping, “we are very proud of the relationship we have with the UK Chamber, who have been supporting SPNL since its formalisation in 2009, supporting what we strive to do and what we stand for” said SPNL Chairman, Claudio Chiste.
SPNL and Bibby Line Group also took the opportunity to raise funds for the Mission to Seafarers Haiyan Appeal by organising a raffle during the evening. The raffle raised £240 and Bibby kindly made this up to £400 for the Appeal.