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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Middle East shipping – confidence and optimism

Dubai World CEO Jamal Majid Bin Thaniah's keynote speech set the tone for the opening session of the Seatrade Middle East Maritime Conference in Dubai last week when he referred to the confidence that was returning to the ports and to shipping in the Middle East region and to the prospects for further growth for the coming years.


He said that 2009 should be consigned to history and that the maritime world was now back on its pre-2008 growth path. This optimism was similarly reflected by the other panellists – Nabil Bourisli, (KOTC), Scott Jones, (Eships), Jamal Mayahi (NITC), Per Wistoft (Gulf Navigation) and Waleed Al Dawood (UASC) – who spoke generally on the state of region's maritime industries and the growing importance of the region as a global maritime centre.


They also echoed the positive prospects for the oil, gas, bulk and container sectors as the world economy moves out of recession. While some concern was expressed over the potential for supply surpluses as the backlog of newbuildings is delivered over the next two years, several on the panel and a few from the floor felt that there were many more cancellations than are being reported by the leading analysts.


The session was chaired by INTERTANKO Managing Director Dr Peter Swift who said that ship owners regionally and globally faced similar challenges, including:

·         the scourge of piracy and armed robbery, not just in the Somali basin but also elsewhere;

·         the importance of meeting society's increasing expectations on environmental performance;

·         the unjustified criminalisation and unfair treatment of seafarers;

·         the need to ensure consistency in the governance standards of the industry: in the adoption and implementation of international regulations, the requirements and practices of flag state administrations, the procedures and regimes of port state controls and the rules and interpretations of classification societies.


He said that they also shared a dependence on healthy freight markets in order to be able to ensure the highest quality and best practices in operations, maintenance and training.


The panellists likewise spoke of their concerns with respect to piracy off the Somali coast, the increasing levels of violence, their dismay at the failure to prosecute pirates apprehended by the military forces and the growing reluctance of seafarers to be exposed to the risk of hijacking.


Swift suggested that the global marine community would benefit if the Middle East Voice was more vocal, in part to provide a balance to the increasingly polarised regional and political blocks that are now more to the fore in many of the international fora, and to represent and promote the very reasonable interests of the regional stakeholders.


In this latter context he also lamented the relatively poor record of many regional states, apart from some oil states, to ratify key conventions ranging from SOLAS to liability and environmental conventions. He suggested that owners and others should be highlighting the importance of action on this by regional governments to enhance their legitimacy as a credible international voice in world shipping.


Contact: Peter Swift