The inaugural The Maritime Standard Ship Finance and Trade Conference, which took place at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, on 26th November, highlighted the opportunity that exists for sustained growth and expansion within the region's shipping and ports sectors, provided investment is sustained and cooperation between various stakeholders strengthened.
A stellar line up of speakers and panelists from the worlds of shipping, ports, finance and law set out the gains that could be made and the challenges that have to be overcome. After a welcome by H.E. Salem Al Zaabi, Director General of the Federal Transport Authority - Land and Marine, Dr. Ali Obaid Al Yabhouni, chief executive for ADNATCO-NGSCO, highlighted the importance of investing in local human resources, as well as ships. "We need to continue investing if we are to grow," he said. H.E. Jamal Majid Bin Thaniah, director and vice chairman of DP World added that cooperation was key to taking growth forward. "The dividing line between risk and reward is very small," he said, "It is up to us to seize the opportunities that are there."
He was followed by former Greek finance minister, Petros Doukas, who led a high level Greek ship-owner delegation to the event. Mr. Doukas underlined the lack of liquidity in the market, and the fact that it was still not easy for shipping companies to borrow money. He also noted the challenge that Arab banks faced in competing on a global scale. He ended by saying, "Greek shipping companies are looking for partners in the Middle East, and this cooperation will be mutually beneficial."
H.E. Khamis Juma Buamim, chairman of the board of DDW-PaxOcean Asia, told the audience there was a need to create opportunities with real growth orientated policies." It is the time for leadership and vision. We need to invest and innovate to capitalise on the huge potential that exists,” he concluded.
The keynote session ended with a speech by Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports, and host of the event. He argued that, "Ports in the region need to adopt advanced technology to generate expansion and growth."
Other speakers in the 'think tank' session that followed included Mohammed Al Muallem, senior vice president of DP World; Ahmed Essa Hareb Al Falah, chief executive of Gulf Energy Maritime; Jorn Hinge, chief executive of UASC; Andre Toet, chief executive of Sohar Port; Jacob Berman, managing director, infrastructure and transportation, Standard Chartered Bank; Rajiv Agarwal, chief executive Essar Ports; Vasudev Amonker, unit head, Burgan Bank and Tarik Al Junaidi, deputy chief executive, Oman Shipping Company.
Around 150 delegates attended the event and came from across the region, as well as from the Far East and Europe.
Managing director of The Maritime Standard, Trevor Pereira, said, "This is our first conference and we managed to gather together a high quality cast of speakers and panelists the like of which has not been seen before. Through the interaction of these great minds, with their many years of experience, I am confident that there will be longer lasting impacts for our industry and tangible outcomes."
He added," I would like to thank our hosts in Abu Dhabi, which is a strong and vibrant force within the maritime sector today. It is highly appropriate that the event should be held here at a splendid venue, fully befitting such a gathering."
Clive Woodbridge, conference moderator and editor of The Maritime Standard concluded that, "The conference was perfectly timed as there was a sense in the room that we are on the cusp of a pivotal moment in the development of the shipping industry in the region. As many speakers stressed there are significant opportunities to be grasped, but only if there is the right level of investment in the right assets."