After the Lord Mayor’s show

Shipping calendars these days are so frenzied that as soon as one event ends, a raft of others hove into view. As London International Shipping Week (LISW) completed its second edition successfully last week, it has been succeeded by two other ‘shipping weeks’ this week, in Cyprus and Genoa.

The fact is that every hub these days feels it necessary to bolt on a shipping week to extend its credentials as an aspiring international maritime centre. Aspiring is the key here. LISW was formed as a much belated reaction to so many cities keen to take London’s mantle as a top shipping services centre. London, for so many years the top dog in world shipping, has seen its influence erode from places with more long term vision (and deeper pockets).

One study from Norway in May this year placed the British capital a distant sixth in a list of global maritime centres, something I think is a bit harsh – it is, in my view, still a top five player, albeit one at a crossroads. As shipping has inevitably shifted east with more than one in two ships now Asian, London has found itself to be not quite superfluous to requirements, but in need of rejigging what its maritime offering is. The trick for London will be in making its skills set relevant and easy to reach for Asian markets.

As an aside, let me just say how much I enjoyed last week – what made it special for me was the breadth of events (more than 100 things to attend on a huge range of topics) at sublime historical buildings and with no huge exhibition running alongside, something that often sucks the life out of other maritime events.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Very accurate comments and the fact you focus on those wonderful old historical buildings is rather apt as far as London as an international maritime centre is concerned . As one Asian shipowner once told me : ” London ? Great museums”

    Who knows about the future of maritime exhibitions – I believe they can act as a focal point for a maritime week of events – but exhibition companies who will win in the long run will be the ones who come to terms with producing events with an online ,virtual reality component . None do right now. The tipping point for these mega hardware maritime shows will come when the stand buying sponsoring supporters finally realize they can network with customers just as effectively without paying huge sums of money to exhibition companies for stands that no-one actually visits / the future is “free”

  2. I think LISW is a good initiative by the London maritime community to showcase the city’s shipping credentials. Although I think the event was only launched once it was apparent that London was slipping down the league table of global shipping cities.

    In the future the main draw card for industry leaders to travel to international shipping events at maritime hubs will be the attraction of customer roundtables, seminars and conferences, packaged with customer and staff meetings and a chance to speak to the media.

    It will be the event organisers that provide innovative meeting opportunities for ‘C’ level delegates combined with focused and relevant forums that will win the day. As Ed Ion said there is a waning appetite for large exhibition focused events and more interest in meeting the people that matter.

  3. Agreed with the comments above. Increasingly I find some of the largest exhibitors in the maritime field are questioning the need to pay shedloads for a booth at one of 100s of exhibitions around the world. Have a party, hold a seminar on the sidelines – that seems to be the way forward for many. Big maritime exhibitions I think will be wittled down dramatically soon – SMM in Hamburg and Marintec China in Shanghai will serve as buyers havens, the rest will need a rethink. I applaud LISW for not going down the exhibition route — as well as Danish Maritime Days coming up soon – both seem more high brow as a result

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