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The Interview: Lord Mountevans

Lord Mountevans with quote

The Interview: Lord Mountevans

He’s the grandson of a man who survived the Scott of the Antarctic expedition and went on to write the rules of professional wrestling. But after half a century in shipping, Lord Mountevans has his own claim to fame as a figurehead for London’s maritime cluster.

He’s the grandson of a man who survived the Scott of the Antarctic expedition and went on to write the rules of professional wrestling. But after half a century in shipping, Lord Mountevans has his own claim to fame as a figurehead for London’s maritime cluster.

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Numerous roles

After Brexit

Love affair with shipping

 

LORD Mountevans is obviously so much more than the token ‘Lord on the board’, lending his name to the headed notepaper of the multiple shipping organisations which he now serves in an unremunerated capacity.

Clearly motivated by an old-school public services ethos, he has chosen voluntarily to go into bat for our industry, with the idea of giving something back to the sector in which he worked for over four decades in a one-firm career at Clarksons.

He is also that comparative rarity in politics, a hereditary peer still sitting in Britain’s unelected second chamber, as a non-aligned crossbencher in an upper house dominated by appointees ennobled for partisan efforts on behalf of political parties.

That position he owes to the exploits of his illustrious grandfather, the legendary Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans.

The 1st Baron Mountevans, as Teddy became in 1945, was among other things a survivor of the legendary Edwardian-era expedition to the South Pole led by Scott of the Antarctic, a tragic tale of heroism eagerly imbibed by generations of British schoolboys.

Teddy went on to become a First World War naval hero and head of the Australia and South Africa squadrons, before becoming civil defence commissioner for London in the Second World War.

He then capped all that by codifying the rules of professional wrestling, still known as the Admiral Lord Mountevans Rules, which define which holds are legal and what counts as a fall.

It’s not even as if Jeffrey Evans, as he was born, thought he would ever succeed to the title. It was only with the unexpected death of his older brother that he became the 4th Baron Mountevans four years ago.

Numerous roles

But even without that twist of fate, he would surely have made his mark through his numerous roles with Maritime London, Maritime UK, the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, maritime charity Seafarers UK and the White Ensign Association.

Maritime London, where Lord Mountevans is chair, is his biggest commitment right now, taking up two to three days a week.

Maritime London, as you’d expected from its name, exists to promote the interests of the capital’s maritime cluster.

London is the odd one out among the world’s major shipping centres, in that the number of physical shipowners based there is much depleted in recent decades.

But as far as Lord Mountevans is concerned, it is clearly number one when it comes to white-collar shipping services such as shipbroking, maritime law, classification societies, insurance, education, shipping-related consultancy and audit.

“Our focus is on that. We’re very much a practitioner-led organisation. I’m no longer a shipbroker, but then I haven’t come on as a shipbroker. We have lawyers, we have P&I club people, we have educationalists; all the backgrounds who you’d expect to be represented.

“We have our finger on the pulse of what's happening, how we can help, how we can work with government and with other organisations.”

Even the comparative lack of actual living and breathing shipowners is not an insuperable problem. In Lord Mountevans’ striking formulation, shipping isn’t just shipping.

“You know, ‘shipping’ isn't just shipping. But shipping is an important part of the picture. And [attracting shipowners to London] is something that we’re actively engaging with government to try to promote.

“We’re not perhaps quite as strong as we’d like to be, but it’s something we’re working on. We have a very good tonnage tax regime, and that's constantly under review.

“I can tell you that there are actually international shipowners actively at the moment considering locating in the UK.”

Maritime London’s activities include the organisation of the biennial London International Shipping Week, which attracted around 20,000 visitors to its fourth iteration in the second week of September.

“I’m so pleased. We’ve set the bar higher each time each time.

“I know I’m interested, as chair of the advisory board. But the calibre of the events this year was fantastic, not to say that the previous one wasn’t great. I think we exceeded our ambitions and goals, which is pretty exciting.”

As a prelude to LISW, Maritime London published a report commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which set out 36 recommendations to boost the maritime sector in London. Perhaps the most eye-catching was a call for a ‘shipping czar’.

That was nearly two months ago now, and there is no sign yet of the government delivering on the elements of the wish list aimed at Westminster. But it’s early days yet, and Lord Mountevans declares himself hopeful of progress on this agenda.

After Brexit

Things will be clearer once Brexit is resolved. Although Lord Mountevans personally backed Remain, he does not think leaving the European Union will be a body blow.

“We’re very keen to ensure that the UK has a sort of adrenaline shot post-Brexit,” he notes.

It’s important to avoid a race to the bottom, as many fear, but leaving the European Union regulatory framework may free the government to do things to promote shipping. Given that we are the most international of international businesses, it may not matter much either way.

Lord Mountevans is also on the council of Maritime UK. That organisation has a different remit, covering the whole of the maritime space, including ports, boat builders and maritime equipment manufacturers, which tend to be based in the regions.

He was even chair of Maritime UK, stepping down in 2015 when he became Lord Mayor of London.

“Maritime UK is a government lobbying organisation, and it wasn’t appropriate that the Lord Mayor — which is a non-political appointment — should be heading a lobbying organisation, so I stood down that time,” he explains.

Another commitment, which probably takes up around one day a week, is serving as president of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, which regulates professional examinations in the field, and which is currently celebrating its centenary.

He naturally commends the volunteers who keep its network of 25 branches around the world going. It is they who do the heavy lifting, he stresses.

Shipping even impinges on what Lord Mountevans does politically in the of Lords, where is a key member of all-party parliamentary groups covering maritime and ports and shipbuilding.

Love affair with shipping

His love affair with shipping goes back to his time at the Nautical College in Pangbourne in Berkshire, a fee-paying boarding school founded in 1917 to prepare boys for careers at sea, where he sat O-levels in navigation and in seamanship.

At that time, his ambition was to follow in the family’s Royal Navy tradition. Unfortunately, poor eyesight left him unable to take that route, and an injury acquired on the rugby pitch also ruled out plan B, which was the Royal Marines.

He now takes tremendous consolation from his appointment as an honorary captain now in the Royal Navy Reserve.

Cambridge University followed, and Lord Mountevans qualified as an economist, but still hankered after professional involvement with the maritime world.

On the recommendation of a family friend, he entered shipbroking at Clarksons, and stayed there his entire working life.

“I did 45 years, which is quite unusual today. People along the way were kind enough to ask me to join rivals, but the time was never right. And actually, I’m so glad I stayed, because it’s been such an adventure.”

Meanwhile, Lord Mountevans married his Cambridge girlfriend, who became a maritime lawyer, and at one stage worked for the Chamber of Shipping.

The couple have two sons, one working for a political think tank and the other in academia. The family home for over 30 years has been in Kensington, with easy access to Kensington Gardens and Holland Park.

Outside of work, he is a keen outdoorsman, particularly on his frequent visits to Norway, where he has family. He is a fluent Norwegian speaker, incidentally.

“For a guy my age, I’m not too shabby at long distance cross-country skiing. We do 40-50 kilometre trips every day and get back in time for a late lunch.”

His musical tastes are catholic, including opera and ballet, which is his wife’s favoured genre, but also blues and soul.

That schoolboy rugby injury hasn’t stopped him following the game in adult life, and he will be rooting for England in the world cup final on Saturday. Otherwise, he supports Saracens, and Arsenal at football.

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