In our previous Journal, I wrote that the UK Chamber was ready to take its work to the next level – and we have delivered. Twelve months on, our organisation is celebrating a major policy win, has increased its membership base and has been prominent in the debate surrounding Brexit negotiations. We have raised our profile to the point where a week seldom goes by without our name appearing in the national media.
We exist to make a difference – to unite the industry, to champion its cause and to deliver results. In spring 2018, for instance, the Government accepted our joint proposal with Nautilus to double funding for seafarer training, ultimately to £30 million a year. As a result, many more UK seafarers will be trained and gainfully employed in the coming years.
Our members’ engagement is a critical part of what makes the UK Chamber work. It ensures the policies we campaign for, and the arguments we make, are relevant and in their best interests. We need proportionate policies – be they fiscal or regulatory – that support what we do and create a positive business environment in which to operate.
Our membership continues to grow, year on year, with new names and returning old friends. The spur for this growth, our new members tell us, is the way we have successfully put across our message for the shipping industry. By raising our own profile, we are raising the profile of shipping and of the wider maritime sector – and the larger our membership, the louder our collective voice can be.
As the UK Chamber becomes more influential, however, we need to ensure it will be around for years to come. Our President, Sir Michael Bibby, believes passionately that we must be a financially stable organisation that will stand the test of time.
We have already been working on this. The UK Chamber of Shipping is a centre of maritime expertise, which we have been sharing with members through our regular Introduction to Shipping courses, conferences, events and publications. As well as circulating key knowledge and best practice, these activities are a growing revenue stream.
This income is being reinvested in the Chamber to help us maintain our relevance and effectiveness. We now have a dedicated Brexit policy adviser, who enables us to tackle the everchanging political landscape, plus an inhouse journalist, who helps us broadcast our arguments – not just to our members, but to the whole world.
For maritime companies operating in the UK, we are the centre of policy development. We offer one-to-one support for members on a range of issues, such as the Maritime Labour Convention – for which one of our staff is one of the world’s foremost authorities – plus taxation, and the challenges and opportunities posed by Brexit.
Our members are generally very engaged with our activities, but we have identified the need to ensure the excellent services we offer are accessible not only to management-level staff, but to those at other levels too. In particular, we want to reach young people and those who have only recently joined the shipping industry. If the UK Chamber is to stand the test of time, we need to be nurturing the next generation of maritime professionals. Our regular Introduction to Shipping course aims to fill the gaps in knowledge of younger staff and industry newcomers and foster their confidence. We wish to build on the success of this course and we are actively looking at new ways to expand this offering to engage people who might think the Chamber is “not for them” – because it is.
We are leading the debate on a range of issues. Through our Safety Culture work, we are changing the way the shipping industry thinks about safeguarding its workforce. No other maritime organisation has shifted the conversation around safety like we have over the past year, culminating with the Safety Culture at Sea event we held on board the Saga Pearl II cruiseship in autumn 2017.
The Chamber has also been one of the most vocal organisations on the issue of seafarer mental health. We reacted with agility when new data came to light in 2017 that suggested an increasing proportion of seafarers commit suicide after experiencing mental health issues at sea. This resulted in our drawing up guidelines that our members can follow to develop their own internal mental health policies. We also held a Psychological Safety at Sea event in February, and this will be followed by further initiatives during 2018.
The UK Chamber was also among the first signatories to United for Wildlife’s Buckingham Palace Declaration, an action plan to tackle the trafficking of illegal wildlife products. Forty transport companies from around the world have since signed the agreement.
United for Wildlife, of which HRH Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is President, has engaged the transport industry to identify practical and achievable actions to prevent the carriage of illicit wildlife products. In recognition of the UK Chamber’s contribution to the transport taskforce, the Duke joined us at our annual dinner in February, where he delivered an address that emphasised the importance of this work.
This symbiotic relationship between our policy work, our events and our communications is propelling the Chamber forward. We are not just committed to building a better trade body, we are committed to building a better industry – one that is ambitious, focused, responsible and influential.