The 3rd Annual The Maritime Standard Ship Finance & Trade Conference, held at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, assembled a high quality panel of speakers, from a wide variety of backgrounds, to discuss and debate the key issues and trends facing the shipping and ports market in the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent, with a particular focus on financial issues. The audience of around 150 heard from some of the leading and most well-known personalities in the business, including senior executives with many years’ experience in their chosen fields, who highlighted the importance of building partnerships to help accelerate investment-led growth within the industry.
Conference chairman, Clive Woodbridge, editor, The Maritime Standard, said: “There was a tremendous amount of optimism in the room, with a strong sense that there are significant opportunities for those who take the right decisions in a timely manner. However, it was clear that collaboration, partnership building and improved communications between sectors are vital to ensure that the potential benefits in terms of investment and trade generation are achieved.”
The keynote speeches at the event were given by two prominent, and influential figures within the UAE shipping and ports sectors. A presentation by H.E. Dr. Abdullah Salem Al-Katheeri, Director General, Federal Transport Authority (FTA) – Land & Maritime, was followed by Abdulkareem Al Masabi, Executive Vice President, Ports, Abu Dhabi Ports. Both speakers were upbeat about the future and highlighted the key strategies and investment programmes being followed within the UAE, and the benefits these will have for the local economy and regional trade.
H.E. Dr. Al-Katheeri said, “The FTA is doing its utmost to enhance collaboration among all stakeholders in the maritime industry and to create the best framework to provide shipping and trade professionals with the opportunity to have a dialogue with key decision makers. Our aim is to improve the business environment for the maritime transport industry, and to enable the delivery of competitive financial solutions for shipping, ports and associated services.”
In his presentation, Mr. Al Masabi described the coming of an exciting era in the maritime industry in the UAE. He added, “There is more reason for optimism in the industry heading into 2018 than we have had for several years. Uncertainty continues to surround us, but there are signs of a stronger macroeconomic picture as we look ahead to 2020, and the collaboration that has sustained the industry through recent years of stagnation is now poised to propel us to a period of increased growth.”
The main conference session focused on how politico-economic factors are likely to shape future opportunities and challenges for the shipping and ports sectors. The audience heard from several influential figures in the industry who shared their insights into what lies ahead. These included: Abdulla Bin Damithan, Director Commercial, DP World – UAE Region; Khamis Juma Buamim, Managing Director and Group Chief Executive, Gulf Navigation Holding; Chris Peters, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Ship Investment Company; and Ross Thompson, Acting Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer, Ports, Abu Dhabi Ports. Ali Shehab, Deputy Chief Executive, Kuwait Oil Tanker Company, also made a special presentation to the Conference by video link.
The first of two-afternoon sessions focused on how best to develop strategies for the future, working with the financial sector, and featured several informative, and stimulating presentations from experts in their respective fields. Highlights included presentations by Adel Al Wahedi, Chief Financial Officer, Abu Dhabi Ports; Jacob Berman, Managing Director, Infrastructure and Transportation, Corporate & Institutional Banking, Standard Chartered; Andrew Simmons, Chief Executive, Global Marine Transport Capital; Bora Bariman, Head of Energy & Marine, National Bank of Fujairah; and Andrew Baird, Partner, Watson Farley & Williams (Middle East).
The audience also heard from Sinan Ozcan about the new Maersk Trade Finance programme, which has recently been launched in the UAE.
After a stimulating and thought-provoking question and answer session, with considerable interaction with the audience, the third and final session featured case studies illustrating how different businesses can be developed to diversify regional maritime clusters, in support of shipping and trade growth. The conference heard from June Manoharan, Director, LUKOIL Marine Lubricants; Katherine Yakunchenkova; General Manager, Al Safina Security; and Capt. Stephen Bligh, Senior Principal Consultant, DNV-GL. This was followed by a networking opportunity at which attendees and panelists were able to continue discussions about issues raised during the event.
Trevor Pereira, managing director of The Maritime Standard, said, “The Conference brought together individuals with particular expertise in their fields to create a unique experience. This year we were able to build further on the success of the first two events, and I am sure everyone who attended went away with some fresh ideas to take back to their businesses. Abu Dhabi once again proved to be an ideal location, as the emirate is fast becoming a globally important shipping and trade hub, and we are truly grateful for the support and encouragement were given by local businesses, particularly Abu Dhabi Ports.”