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There's a scary elephant in the room

Why isn’t the LISW 2017 events calendar covered with a rash of Brexit-blessed opportunities?

IT HAS become de rigeur to spend conferences wondering how digital disruption will hit our businesses, whether there will be enough 0.5% sulphur fuel available after 2020, and how we can attract the next generation to shipping. London’s no different in this respect. No doubt the same concerns will be raised in the City as were aired at NorShipping in Oslo, Singapore Shipping Week, and CMA in Stamford.

However, there’s a presence in the room that sends a Dickensian shiver down the backs of all British shipping folk, one that must be confronted at London International Shipping Week 2017. It’s the elephant in the room: it’s Brexit. Why are there no seminars tackling the mother of all nightmares for British shipping? Why is no one sticking their neck above the parapet to tell it like it is — unless there’s a significant change of pace in European Union withdrawal negotiations, this could be the very last London shipping week.

 

“Why are there no seminars tackling the mother of all nightmares for British shipping?”

 

The UK is a trading nation. Trade is in Britain’s DNA, with local partners as well as with distant cousins. The Brexit decision — which cannot be swept under the carpet because the people have voted! — has breached trading links with the European Union that took more than 40 years to create. Britain is promised new trade deals with the United States, with China, with Latin America that were not possible before. The doors will be opened at the end of March 2019: British shipping will ride the wave of new trade links. So why isn’t the LISW 2017 events calendar covered with a rash of Brexit-blessed opportunities?

The reason is pretty obvious. This elephant is big, hairy, and very, very scary. Almost one quarter of the way through the two-year negotiation period, British politicians have shown they either misunderstood certain critical aspects of the meaning of Brexit or they are determined to leave come hell or high water. Either way, London International Shipping Week should be sending a clear message to whichever senior government minister turns up on the day that a rancorous divorce is aggravated by failure to secure alternative accommodation elsewhere.

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