A need for greater visibility, not only for the activities of the maritime industry but also the routes of access for young professionals wanting to enter the business, was the message of panellists at last week’s Shipping Professional Network London (SPNL) event “Showcasing the Next Generation in Shipping”.
The evening attracted some 250 professionals from across the international maritime community who were in London for LISW15. The formal part of the evening drew together attendees for an impassioned discussion focusing on the next generation of the shipping industry, this was followed by networking of a distinctly British-flavour.
Austin Powers ‘International Man of Mystery’ was among the entertainment line-up delighting guests, a George Michael look-a-like featured on the mic, injecting a sense of fun and ‘British-ness’ into the event, undoubtedly LISW15’s ‘grooviest, baby’!
The glamorous venue and star-studded line-up of well-known UK entertainers built upon the naugural SPNL event of LISW13. That event, held on the Golden Hinde II – the replica vessel of Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon, celebrated the maritime history of the UK and the achievement of the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.
This year’s panel of SPNL’s international counterparts represented the young shipping voices of Hong Kong, Copenhagen and Hamburg, with a voice of experience provided in the guise of the Baltic Exchange’s Robin King.
Once again the poor perception of the industry was highlighted, and cited as a major factor in deterring talented young professionals from viewing the sector as an attractive career proposition.
On introducing the evening, SPNL Chair, Claudio Chiste had reminded the audience of the mission of both the SPNL and its related international partners – “to promote and develop the next generation of shipping professionals via a platform that connects us with our peers and facilitates exposure to industry leaders.” All the panellists shared these sentiments with each respective maritime hub network generating a series of local events to socialise, network and learn. Tabitha Logan, Board Member of the Young Professionals in Shipping Network (YPSN) – Hong Kong, said that their network had taken the concept of ‘next generation’ a little further and saw their role as key to raising awareness at school level and have a programme of education work that members undertake within local schools.
This importance of education and training was raised by the other panellists, especially in consideration of the unprecedented rate of change taking place in the industry today and the associated pressure this places on those new to the business. These issues were common across all the maritime centres represented although there were some regional differences illustrated by the panellists.
Jeroen Hollebrands, Chair of SPN Copenhagen (SPNC), discussed an initiative that was helping to lower the barrier to training for smaller owners in the Danish maritime hub, an intern programme run by the Danish Shipowner Association and BIMCO. Hollebrands commented that he sees this as being a successful solution in a market where cash-flow for most businesses is tight and only the very big players have the resources to run their own internal training and development programmes.
Hamburg SPN (SPNH) Chair, Isabel Dressel, echoed Hollebrands’ comments as she recalled her own experience of Hamburg’s Maritime Business School and the opportunities that this programme afforded to her own career path and exposure to the industry. She also remarked that there was still a certain prestige attached to a career in the maritime industry in Hamburg, drawing on the traditional link of the city to shipping but that attracting talent and the visibility of the industry was still an issue and an increasing one.
As King pointed out, the poor visibility of the industry is not something new, in fact he remembered the same scenario when he ‘fell’ into the industry back in the 1970’s. “It seems clear that three things needed to drive improvement have come out of tonight’s discussions.” King continued, “Networking, more events and more education – all with the view to raise visibility, as the industry remains so invisible to so many people and this is now causing some fundamental challenges as we look to secure a talented and dedicated next generation of professionals.”