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Maritime London calls for ‘shipping czar’

Britain needs a ‘shipping czar’ to attract more shipowners and international charterers to the UK, industry umbrella group Maritime London argues in a report published today at the start of London International Shipping Week. The document sets out 36 recommendations to boost the collective contribution of marine insurance, shipbroking, legal, finance and classification services

‘Changing trade patterns, new vessel types, digital technologies and green solutions all offer us the opportunity to grow our market share, expand our businesses and increase our contribution to the UK economy,’ says Maritime London chair Lord Mountevans

BRITAIN needs a ‘shipping czar’ to attract more shipowners and international charterers to the UK, industry umbrella group Maritime London has argued in a report published today, marking the start of London International Shipping Week.

The document, titled Catching the Wave, sets out 36 recommendations to boost the collective contribution of marine insurance, shipbroking, legal, finance and classification services, believed to be worth some $5.6bn to the UK economy and to employ some 10,000 people.

While Britain remains one of the global leaders in the niche, it faces increasing competition from rivals such as Singapore, US, China and Norway in the $20bn global market for maritime services, the report points out.

Produced in co-operation with the Corporation of the City of London, Catching the Wave was written by the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers in support of the government’s Maritime 2050 strategy.

It aims to provide a detailed roadmap of industry and government actions needed to strengthen the UK’s position in the field.

Key planks include increasing the number of international shipowners and charterers based in Britain, with both corporate and personal taxation regimes and residence rules seen as important in this respect.

The need is also seen for increased backing for technological innovation, supporting green ship finance activities, and increasing the overall talent pool.

Maritime London chairman Lord Mountevans commented: “We must work together to enhance the UK’s leading position as the world’s top maritime services cluster.

“Changing trade patterns, new vessel types, digital technologies and green solutions all offer us the opportunity to grow our market share, expand our businesses and increase our contribution to the UK economy.”

The term czar, strictly speaking the title of Russian monarchs prior to 1917, is now a nickname applied to independent political advisers appointed by governments to bolster efforts in given policy areas.

Originating in the US, the idea became popular in Britain in the New Labour period. Since then, hundreds have been appointed, including enterprise czars, fuel poverty czars, shopping czars and even drugs czars.

As well as the call for a policy chief, Maritime London also wants to build on UK strength in maritime disputes and insurance by developing relevant legal frameworks for artificial intelligence, autonomous vessels and carbon emissions.

The UK presence in ship financing is described as marginal, following the exit of state-owned RBS and Lloyds from the market.

While Britain maintains a leading position in maritime professional services, the report points out that many Asian countries are providing extensive incentives for those wishing to locate, as well as benefiting from the changing dynamics of trade, and relative market share is often being eroded.

Recommendations for its revival include achieving dual listings of large shipping companies on the London Stock Exchange; developing London as the leading offshore centre for European Yuan-based ship leasing; and greater outreach to the existing pool of UK-based institutional investors.

Proposals to improve the adoption of digital technologies by the maritime sector include the creation of a government and industry-backed fund focused on supporting innovation, and the designation of maritime as a priority sector within existing government schemes.

Post-Brexit visa and immigration rules must ensure that UK firms can recruit the best international staff and increase the number of merchant officers, extend diversity and further internationalise maritime colleges.

The positive effect of having multiple maritime service providers in one location needs to be further enhanced. Possible measures include working more closely with other European clusters, proactively engaging with developing economies, and so-called virtual clustering initiatives.

PwC believes that delivering the recommendations will require the combined efforts of the Department of Transport, the Treasury, the Department for International Trade and maritime associations.

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