Greeks go for broking: Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers president Bruce Ogilvy tells IMIF of mounting interest in Athens and around the world
Greece is witnessing a surge of enthusiasm from men and women keen to pursue shipbroking as a career. The upswing in the already popular profession in the traditionally strong shipping nation was reported by Bruce Ogilvy, president of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, when he addressed a meeting in London of the International Maritime Industries Forum.
Within his theme – the work of the ICS – three developments underlined the important role of the Institute in the Hellenic community.
For the first time, Greece had in 2014 overtaken London in having more students and exam papers than in any of the 115 Institute examination centres. Given the adverse employment market in the country, often it was the individuals or their parents, rather than companies, who were paying for the education courses.
In June, when the Institute exhibited at the Posidonia maritime exhibition in Athens, there was a steady stream of people who were looking for work enquiring how to enter the industry.
In December, when the Greek branch of the Institute celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Eugenides Foundation in Athens, there was a huge audience, comprising more than 400 shipping professionals from near and far.
Mr Ogilvy told members attending the IMIF event, at the Baltic Exchange, that worldwide there was healthy interest in gaining professional shipbroking qualifications. “Demand for our courses is growing, ” he said, referring to last year’s 10% growth, “which is quite surprising bearing in mind the lousy market.” This was, said the ICS leader, a clear contrast to previous recessions, when “the first thing to go with the squeeze on operating costs is education and training – a very naïve policy. Now, in this cycle it seems to be the opposite.”
He added: “The continual rise in numbers of students… suggests that professional qualifications are even more important today. The students themselves want to be prepared for when the market turns.”
Normally exams are once a year in April with 16 subjects, but to meet demand, the Institute decided to have a second sitting in November 2014 with eight subjects, “and we were amazed at the take-up. Our education and training committee is currently considering whether we should have 16 subjects twice [every] year.”
In April 2014, 2, 600 students took more than 6, 000 examination papers in 115 centres. In November, 900 students took 1, 500 papers in 33 centres. This is a massive logistics issue to get all the papers out at the same time, but the system is running well, said Mr Ogilvy. The pass rate is around 40%, a reflection of the rigour of the exams, which “are considered by certain practitioners to be of degree level.” Many people succeed in their second attempt at passing.
To adapt to the technological revolution, the Institute is considering whether to allow students to submit their papers via laptops, iPads or similar devices which would be provided specially for the purpose. “We will have to do it sooner rather than later, ” said Mr Ogilvy, subject to safeguards against plagiarism and cheating.
Mr Ogilvy said that the Institute had 26 branches and nearly 4, 000 members. There are 17 distance-learning courses, serving candidates in regions including Asia and the Middle East. He said that under its Royal Charter, granted in 1926 and amended in 1984 to allow it to recruit overseas members, the Institute had to conduct its exams in English but had responded to requests for its materials to be translated.
The ICS president has taken his campaign for improved professional standards to many countries. He declared: “I want to make the ICS qualifications mandatory for anyone working ashore.”
Mr Ogilvy said that after some earlier setbacks with casualties that attracted strong public criticism, shipping was recovering its reputation, although “it needs an awful lot of work from everybody in the industry.” The industry had to reckon with the reaction of the mainstream media to major incidents, and more executives were taking training in how to respond constructively to press demands.
IMIF chairman Jim Davis – himself a former president of the Institute – endorsed Mr Ogilvy’s promotion of the ethos of professionalism. Mr Davis said that the one-time attitude of some shipbrokers, which Mr Ogilvy summarised as FFF (find the ships, fix ’em and forget ’em), had been replaced by a realisation that brokers should be representatives of the best interests of shipping.
“Let’s get more professionalism in our great industry, ” insisted the IMIF chairman.