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Fellowship Blog: Our intern reveals what goes on behind the scenes at Lloyd’s List

What does a cub reporter actually do when they arrive at one of the world's most established publishing brands? Intern Theo Cohn lifts the lid

Find out what it’s like to work in shipping journalism by following our new intern

Friday 17th August

Lloyd’s List’s One Hundred Container Ports 2018 is coming out very soon.

I was involved in providing supplementary materials for writing entries surrounding five ports (with a reference to 2017 entry):

Hong Kong - 5th

London – 66th

Port Klang – 11th

Port Said – 49th

Singapore – 2nd

Focusing on container ports, its throughput figures, infrastructure investments and developments, and every other aspect impacting the container side of shipping gave me a further understanding to the intrinsic link that the industry depends on its export trade.

Apart from top 100 ports, I wrote a story on the US blacklisting Chinese shipping firms and a Russian port agency over sanctions against North Korea.

Another interesting angle where shipping and international relations overlaps: North Korea collaborates with China and Russia to evade sanctions imposed by the US and the UN.

It reminded me to be aware of the way in which politics serves as a main drive between countries - with a strong state influence - using "shipping" as a primary means to conduct certain activities. 

 

Friday 10th August

A day with Maritime London

This week, I visited Maritime London, the Baltic Exchange, the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents, Lloyd’s Market Association, Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee and London Maritime Arbitrators Association, where I witnessed the intricacy of London’s wider shipping network.

I began by meeting Jos Standerwick, chief executive of Maritime London, and Janet Sykes, the chief operating officer of the Baltic Exchange. They both had a lot to tell me about their institutions’ history and what services they offer.

The history of the Baltic Exchange traces its roots back to 1744 (only 10 years after the launch of Lloyd’s List) in the Virginia and Baltic Coffee House, London. Coffee houses were important places for merchants and shipowners to exchange market-wide information.

The old building of the Baltic Exchange became the last remaining face-to-face trading floor in the City of London until it effectively ceased in 1992 due to the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA. The former sites of the Baltic Exchange and Chamber of Shipping are now home to the Gherkin, a commercial skyscraper.

Hearing about the history of the Baltic Exchange, it was important for me to understand the context in which the way maritime and shipping industry operates to this day in London.

After my visit to the Maritime London office, I walked next door to the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents. The general manager Jonathan Williams gave me an introduction the difference between the role of a ship agent and a shipbroker. The former represents the interests of the shipowner or charterer while the ship is in port. The latter acts as an intermediary between the shipowner and charterer or the buyers and sellers of ships.

After leaving the Baltic Exchange, I followed Mr Standerwick to meet with Neil Roberts, the head of marine underwriting at Lloyd’s Market Association. Mr Roberts explained the role of an underwriter is to offer business insight and technical support to achieve market consensus, where appropriate, and to inform and influence market oversight decisions. His underwriting team represents a long list of marine issues ranging from hull, war, liability and rig, cargo, specie, joint excess loss and all the other marine sectors that one can imagine.

At the end of the tour, Mr Roberts took us to the old heritage site of Lloyd’s Market Association, where we encountered historically important marine exhibits, including a collection of swords that belonged to Admiral Nelson.

 

Friday 3rd August

I spent the week with Nidaa Bakhsh, our senior markets reporter, engrossed in the dry bulk industry. First came an intro to the Baltic Exchange, a database furnishing freight market information for the trading and settlement of physical and derivative contracts. But first I needed a vocabulary lesson, including basic terms, such as “spot price”, “forward curve”, as well as names of vessels, like “panamax”, “capesize”, the list goes on.... In a later story related to Diana Shipping, a major dry bulk owner, those terms came in useful for explaining market trends, quarterly and annual projections. It was also useful for understanding why Diana managed to get double the rate for a capesize charter compared with its previous contract.

As I understand, this year has seen an important rebound for dry bulk freight rates after hitting lows in 2016. This April, however, saw a steep drop, especially in the capesize market, because of limited cargoes due to weather-related disruptions at various mines and later a trucker’s strike in Brazil that curtailed shipments. While those issues were temporary, challenges remain: namely the ever-present threat of a full-scale global trade war. But demand growth has improved, outpacing vessel supply. Balancing the market seems to be key.

 

Monday 30th July

My internship has taken me into unexpected waters within the maritime industry. This week, I began with a story on piracy in the southern Philippines. I am learning how crucial it is to raise international awareness of pressing maritime security issues. Moreover, such concerns relate to my former studies in International Relations.

For the second story of the week, I wrote about delays in construction of Mombasa’s new cruise terminal. Anastassios Adamopoulos kindly facilitated contacts with the Kenya Ports Authority, and those contacts were crucial for the development of the story. I once again became aware of the necessity of developing the art of firstly, being able to ask the RIGHT questions, and secondly, liaising skilfully and diplomatically with the relevant parties, in order to produce a comprehensive article.

My final article of the week was to write up a casualty report on a vessel collision off northern Japan. I started off by calling the Japanese coast guard to confirm details of the incident, which had been reported earlier by a Japanese newspaper. Thanks to Lloyd’s List Intelligence and its automatic identification system -updated every 2 hours -  I was able to verify the location of the vessel.

 

Friday 20th July

It was the third Monday of my internship and I was given a chance to sit down with Nidaa Bakhsh, our senior markets reporter, who taught me how to construct a news article from scratch. It is no surprise that each journalist has their own ways of shaping a story. I was grateful to Nidaa for teaching me how to trace a story, find related articles, get a quote, and perhaps most importantly, familiarise myself with background stories and roles of each actor involved. Nidaa also encouraged me to try and find a focus on a topic that could be of my own interest. She introduced me to her with a story on South Korea’s Polaris Shipping, a company that owned and operated VLOC Stellar Daisy, which split and sank in high seas off Uruguay March last year.

On Tuesday, I picked up a story on South Korean shipbuilding (At this point, ‘South Korea’ had become my buzzword), where the shipyards were struggling against Chinese competitors. In the hope of giving a full picture to the story, I recalled the teachings from the day before and attempted to apply the methods I learnt from Nidaa.

Thursday was yet another adventure, as I met with one of the representatives of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Michelle Grech. I was passing by the International Maritime Organization headquarters with Anastassios Adamopoulos, our reporter at Lloyd’s List, who kindly took me to see how interviews are conducted. Observing the interview helped me understand how one could seek answers from interviewees. I recalled what Richard Meade, our managing editor, told me on my first day; be unafraid of asking wrong questions.

 

Harry Theochari of Norton Rose Fulbright, Theo Cohn and Lloyd's List Editor Richard Meade.

Friday 13th July

THE Tom Leander Internship is a three-month work experience with Lloyd’s List, the world’s oldest continuously running journal, which dates back to 1734.

This internship aims to provide aspiring maritime journalists, such as myself, a fast-paced and deadline-orientated news writing experience, with a unique touch on training placements at key organisations including Inmarsat, Oders Berndtson, Seafarers UK, and Elabor8.

I was lucky enough to have found this amazing opportunity while I was browsing online for a journalism-related graduate job. The three-month role started on July 2 and will last until the end of September.

The main reason I applied for this internship was due to my interest in pursuing a career in journalism. At the same time, I also want to specialise in a certain field and the maritime industry seemed incredibly appealing.

On the first day, I was assigned the job of turning a press release into a news article, which was challenging, but also a very rewarding experience. I was shown how to produce a news story, to judge whether a press release is worth turning into a news or not, and how to apply a particular house style.

On the second day, I was invited to a welcome event hosted by Norton Rose Fulbright, one of the sponsors of this internship. The event was attended by representatives of the shipping industry and many other bodies. It was a real eye-opener to see how industries — in spite of their very differences — are intricately intertwined composites of maritime transportation.

Harry Theochari, the global head of transport at Norton Rose Fulbright, offered a reminder of what this internship stands and former Lloyds List editor Tom Leander’s invaluable service to journalism.

For the first week of the internship, I turned around three press releases into news articles.

The first was about a French port investing in infrastructure upgrades; the second one covered a ship recycling project in Bangladesh; and the third concerned a Moroccan transhipment hub increasing their container throughput.

On the second day of the second week, I was invited for an interview training workshop organised by the talent acquisition team at Informa — Lloyd’s List’s parent company — to learn about skills that are crucial to preparing for an interview and how one could best perform in such environment.

Towards the end of the second week, I was invited to attend a talk held by Nick Fallon, the company’s managing director, who shared with us his view on pursuing a career, which included his personal career progression that led him to become a successful executive.

So far, I’m gaining a lot of experience and insight, particularly about how little knowledge I have!

From the classification of ships, regulatory bodies, and the operation of ports, I had never thought the shipping industry could be so diverse and actually... enthralling.

I am now engrossed in fabulous stories such as Richard Clayton’s prognosis of Japan’s future shipping industry or James Baker’s introduction to container shipping. I’m fascinated by this industry and looking forward to writing up many more stories to come.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their time, effort, goodwill and kindness that has made this second round of the Tom Leander Fellow Internship happen.

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