International Maritime Organization secretary-general Kitack Lim has taken advantage of his guest appearance at one of London’s top maritime social events to express his appreciation of the shipping industry’s alignment with the global strategy to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Lim was speaking during the 2019 winter barbecue of Foresight Group International, organised in a huge marquee in the garden of the south London home of Dr Ravi K Mehrotra, executive chairman of the family-owned business and deputy chairperson Mrs Manju Mehrotra.
The IMO chief is keen for the industry to steer a steady course towards cutting noxious emissions from ships by half by 2050, amid many, sometimes costly, ‘solutions’ advocated. In 2019 shipowners are called upon to get ready to meet the IMO 2020 requirement to reduce significantly the sulphur content of fuel oil.
Mr Lim said that the shipping community had made a dedicated effort and contribution to try to follow IMO policy and regulations, despite commercial market conditions, in the interests of human health and the environment. “I’d like to thank all global shipping markets for their efforts and concern for public issues,” he said.
“While you try to comply with the IMO conventions, IMO will do our best to help you with implementation.”
The IMO leader’s brief but serious comments contrasted with the sometimes lighter speeches guests have been used to hearing over the past two dozen winter BBQ evenings – something that highlighted the huge importance and complexity of environmental questions hanging over shipping.
On a more relaxed note, Mr Lim recalled that he had said at the previous year’s BBQ event that as the number of guests was growing, “chairman Ravi Mehrotra is getting younger.” This year Dr Mehrotra was “even younger.”
Mr Lim was followed by several guests in maritime, diplomacy and politics called to the platform and who congratulated Foresight on what one called its “huge success,” and all lauded Dr Mehrotra as “an example to the shipping community.”
The Mehrotra family, fellow directors and colleagues extended their customary warm welcome to 500 guests, a crowd that was a near-Who’s Who of the London shipping circuit and included prominent international players.
John Wishart, Foresight chief operating officer, had opened the formal words from the rostrum by outlining some of the achievements of the $2bn group in the past 12 months.
The group’s Foresight Offshore Drilling division, under Dr Mehrotra’s son-in-law and group director Utsav Seth is installed in a new main office in Dubai.
Over recent years, Foresight has given ever-increasing emphasis to its offshore investments. The big push started in 2003 with a fleet of offshore jack-up rigs, and the big decision came in 2012 to buy the three purpose-built LeTourneau Super 116E units. Four years later the first two of these rigs, named Vivekenand I and Vikenand 2, were delivered, dry towed and deployed on contract with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, which contributes 70% of India’s domestic production. According to Platts, ONGC ranks 11th among global energy majors. It is the only public sector Indian company to feature in Fortune’s ‘Most Admired Energy Companies list.
In July 2018, Foresight Offshore Drilling was awarded a contract for Vivekenand 3 by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company – one of the achievements highlighted by Mr Wishart during the London event. Adnoc, a leading company globally, describes itself as “a primary catalyst for Abu Dhabi’s growth and diversification.” It manages, produces and preserves Abu Dhabi’s hydrocarbon reserves on behalf of the emirate government. According to the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers Environmental Performance Report for 2017, Adnoc ranked in the top five lowest greenhouse gas emitters.
Foresight Drilling says that it is achieving 99.7% uptime thanks to its technologically-advanced equipment, experience and staff programmes which include a dedicated training institute. A “proud milestone” is to have achieved 15m man-hours without a lost-time incident.
In what was said to be excellent market timing, the group bought the 1999-builtvery large crude carrier Front Circassia of 306,000 dwt [for a reported $18m]) from another top shipowner, John Fredriksen, and renamed it Agra.
Mr Wishart, who is a former head of LR Energy and is based at Foresight House in the City of London, noted that Dr Mehrotra in July 2018 was awarded the Seatrade Lifetime Achievement Award, to add to his many accolades over the years, including that of CBE.
Founded in 1984, Foresight has been transformed from a pure shipping business into a global conglomerate as it sought to protect itself from the cyclical nature of the maritime markets. It has extended into several main areas, including offshore drilling, retail shoe and accessories retail,, restaurants and manufacturing of footwear materials. Agency-related services include a portfolio of office space available for letting.
The unstoppable entrepreneur has always paid close commercial attention to the potential of his native India, and his group plans to invest $500m there in the next five years in offshore drilling, shipping, port and liquefied natural gas. It operates six drilling platforms – including three new Le Tourneau Super 116e jack-up ‘cyber rigs’ worth $600m, and two crude aframax tankers in addition to its VLCC. The number of VLCCs could rise to seven or eight, in short order, as well as a couple of LNG carriers.
Dr Mehrotra says that growing per capita income in the world’s sixth largest economy, and the 1.3bn population, will make big demands on fuel supply.
Topics of informal conversation during the evening in addition to the “sulphur cap” included trends towards automated ships, the increasing role of artificial intelligence, vulnerabilities of ships to cyber-attack, casualties to large containerships, state and maritime responsibilities towards the consequences of attempted migrant crossings, the uncertain state of freight markets and bunker prices, Brexit, trade wars and the changing shipmanagement scene.
Despite being engrossed in much friendly chat with one acquaintance after another, we could see so many familiar faces – to name but a few: Dr. Nikos Mikelis with his wife Elaine, Frances Baskerville Secretary-General of CIRM with her daughter Alexandra Baskerville who leads PSD’s professional services practice, Argyris Madella from DMS Cyprus and alternate permanent representative to the IMO, Dr. Deepak Narwal, Pavani Reddy managing partner from Zaiwalla & Co solicitors, Andreas Hadjipetrou managing director from Columbia Shipmanagement Ltd in Cyprus, Jose Matheickal from IMO and the smiling DNV GL’s Nick Roper with his wife…
Heading the Greek fraternity was Radm (Rt. HCG) Costas Amarantides, director general of the GSCC (Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee) and mod of HESGB with his wife Tenia Koronaiou from Greece’s Maritime office at the Greek embassy in London, LISCR’s London office Costas Ladas, the towering Constantin Corniciuc from Lloyd’s Register, Peter Finch chairman of the Maritime Enterprise Working Group, Greta Butkeviciute from London Strategic Consulting, David Moorhouse CBE, former chairman of Maritime London and former chairman of Lloyd’s Register with his wife Anne, maritime arbitrator Ken McClean, vice president of the Propeller Club and John Noble – ever present and his wife…
Uniquely dressed Seonaid Mackenzie from Sturgeon Ventures, banker Oksana Torbych from Julius Baer London, Philip Wake former CEO of The Nautical Institute and his wife, the powerful couple Paul and Maria Dixon – we wish Maria a quick recovery; John Gauci-Maistre head of GM in Malta – he made it, and shipbroker Wendall Abraham always present with his charming wife… all there and…
Dwain Hutchinson from the Bahamas Maritime Authority with his smiling wife was there too as did the former Baltic CEO Jeremy Penn and his wife, Captain Chris Adams head of Syndicate and Loss Prevention at Steamship Mutual P&I, Mark Jackson, Baltic Exchange’s CEO, Peter Cowling, Michalis Lavidas from Pantheon Tankers in Athens and his wife Maria, Captain John Holt, journalist Nicola Good, James Brewer and his wife Graciete Amaro, the ever present to all major social events Inge Mitchell – still on a wheel-chair but stamina and will for life still there…
Peter Cowling and Michael Everard were there too– always good to have with both an extra chat… Mark Brownrigg former director general of the UK Chamber of Shipping, Themis Vokos …Mr. Posidonia… and third time in a week Prof. Nikos Nomikos from Cass Business School!
In 2019, Foresight is supporting Cutty Sark Greenwich as its “charity of the year” and Dr Kevin Fewster, director of the National Maritime Museum including the Royal Observatory, the Queen’s House and Cutty Sark thanked the group for its generosity.
Mrs Manju Mehrotra has sponsored the restoration of the Star of India a carved wooden emblem which adorns the stern of the vessel. The sign represents the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India, established in 1861 by Queen Victoria and was mainly awarded to maharajas and senior military officers working in India.
Dr Fewster said that Cutty Sark was built to last 30 years “and is still going strong 150 years later,” now in the custody of the museum.
The ship was built for the competitive tea trade between Britain and China and was one of many carrying tea for the British market. The design of such clippers enabled them to ‘go at a clip’, or move quickly without sacrificing space for their valuable cargo.
In 1895, Cutty Sark was sold to a Portuguese company and renamed Ferreira then Maria do Amparo, completing voyages from Portugal to the US, Angola, Mozambique, Brazil and Barbados until 1922. Damaged on a voyage from London to Lisbon, Cutty Sark called at Falmouth for repairs, where it was seen by Capt Wilfred Dowman, who recognised the ship from his time as an apprentice. Capt Dowman and his wife Catharine bought and restored the ship. Renamed Cutty Sark it became a training ship for cadets in the merchant service.
Following her husband’s death, Catharine Dowman ‘sold’ the ship to the Thames Nautical Training College in Greenhithe, for a token 10 shillings and donated £5,000 for its upkeep. Frank Carr, then director of the National Maritime Museum, with the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh, established the Cutty Sark Preservation Society in 1953, to install the ship permanently in Greenwich. Despite a fire in 2007, most of the original structure was saved, aided by a conservation project ahead of acquisition by the museum in 2016.
During the Foresight party, guests eagerly grabbed plates for their choice of Indian-style vegetarian buffet, or grilled meats with a huge salad selection, preceded by canapes and followed by desserts and coffee and tea, all embellished by champagne and other alcoholic and soft drinks. Two fruit mountains graced the dining areas.
Dr Mehrotra issued three rousing cheers for Happy New Year, and there was a vigorous response.
Many present had read that in a recent television interview the Foresight chief said that he is the most well-known shipowner in the world. It was quite a claim, but his huge circle of friends and contacts in the UK, India and many other countries attested to his popularity.