President’s investiture speech

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Helen Deeble – Chamber AGM

Good afternoon everyone, it’s a pleasure to be addressing you as President in this the 134th year of the Chamber’s history.

I would like to say a personal thank you to Michael Parker for his wise counsel and support over the last year – as well as the wealth of experience he brought to the Chamber during his second term as President.

I now look forward to working with Ken MacLeod as Vice President in the year to come. Ken’s secret mission is to ensure that, whichever way Scotland votes on independence, the Chamber continues to represent our Scottish members. If you visit the Chamber’s website you will discover that Britain has continued to lead the world as a maritime services centre, with marine insurance, ship finance, law, classification societies, shipbroking, education, consultancy and others all combining to form the largest maritime services cluster, based in the City of London. A strong shipping industry forms the foundation for this.

Since 2000, shipping in the UK has seen remarkable growth as a result of positive government policies in favour of investment, training and the UK register.

This turnaround is of major benefit to the UK economy. Shipping revenue for 2010 (the latest figures available) stood at a massive £12.6 billion, of which almost £9 billion came from overseas trading. The overall net contribution to Britain's balance of payments was over £6 billion.

Sea transport was fourth in the league table of service sector export earners, with revenues totalling £9.6 billion, equivalent to almost 6 per cent of the total export revenue for the UK. As a headline figure, shipping now earns just under £1.5 million every hour of every day for the UK economy.

So, I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility in being asked to lead the premier trade association for the industry, an industry that is faced with a number of very significant challenges. In order to drive economic growth business needs stability in order to plan effectively, both in terms of taxation and employment conditions. In 2012, we will be engaging in formal consultations on the detail of the UK tonnage tax regime as well as the European Commission’s consultation on the review of its state aid guidelines for the maritime sector.

How shipping will respond to the call to reduce its carbon and sulphur emissions, and meet required national targets, continues to dominate as a key policy area.

On carbon:

  • We are committed to pursuing a global solution for shipping on the measurement and reduction of carbon emissions, though we know it will be a long haul.
  • International industry opinion remains divided over which economic measures shipping should use to reduce its carbon emissions, and the debate at global level is not yet close to finding a solution.
  • We are doing everything we can to lobby against a regional model as this would be not be effective in reducing emissions nor work well for European shipping.• This month will see the Committee on Climate Change submit its review of UK shipping emissions to Parliament and so we hope that the very close involvement of the Chamber in this important piece of work will be reflected.

On sulphur:

  • The industry does not believe that abatement technology will be available or effective in time for the new regulations now less than 3 years away, particularly in an industry where assets may be replaced on a 30 year cycle
  • The industry believes that the increased cost of low sulphur fuel will threaten short sea shipping and ferry services to and from the UK, causing a modal shift back to roads as longer sea routes become uneconomic.
  • The report of the Transport Select Committee shows that they share our concerns over gold plating by the European Commission over and above the already exacting MARPOL standards.
  • We all want to enjoy a cleaner safer environment and our industry must play its part but we need to achieve this without damaging vital links to markets in mainland Europe Piracy in the Indian Ocean continues to threaten the lives and wellbeing of seafarers and the flow of world trade itself. It has risen in both political and public consciousness this year with increasing media coverage, the decriminalisation of the carriage of armed guards onboard ships and the most recent high profile conference on Somalia, called by the Prime Minister.

In the year to come we will see how development work for Somalia progresses and tackles the roots of piracy. We will also be closely monitoring and responding to UK policy on armed guards and the most recent political statements on the payment of ransoms, keeping seafarers’ safety at the heart of our concerns.

Closer to home, Safety, and the standards that secure it, are always at the heart of our industry. We must never become complacent and recent events remind us of this. We will work with regulators to improve standards wherever we can, recognising that it is the skill, training and experience of the people in our industry that make the difference.

Whilst immediate concern over SMarT funding for training our cadets has fallen away, we will still have to face up to national cuts in education funding and continue to recruit new talent for the future. With the current weak employment outlook for graduates, we should be promoting the opportunity for young people to gain a qualification, relevant work experience and a rewarding maritime career at sea or ashore.

Finally, the Chamber is coming to the end of an important period – renewed, reorganised and reinvigorated. We hope to cap this in early summer with the move into our new premises near London Bridge. I look forward to welcoming everyone there and to working with the membership and the Chamber team during my year in office.