As London International Shipping Week (LISW) kicks off today there’s a big blue elephant with gold stars in the room that promises to be in the background of all discussions going on in the British capital.
The fact is this is a LISW in limbo, a still-open-for-business confab without necessarily being able to guarantee what the future holds. The real time to visit will be once Brexit has been concluded, when business rules and regulations have been recast.
A sharp warning about Britain’s future as a maritime hub post-EU divorce comes from today’s Maritime CEO interviewee, Mark Charman, a man who has charted the ebbs and flows of shipping clusters over the years.
Charman heads up Faststream, the global maritime recruitment company, which is headquartered in Southampton on the south coast of the UK and has overseas offices in Singapore and Houston.
“The uncertainty in the lead up to Brexit is not helping London’s position as a global shipping hub and it’s going to get tougher once Brexit happens,” Charman warns.
Many organisations are already finding it difficult to recruit certain skill sets in London, the HR expert says.
“The harsh reality is that Brexit is going to make it harder not easier,” Charman reckons.
He recounts how he was recently retained by a shipowner to personally run a senior executive search for an important London based role.
“When I started headhunting European executives, I experienced a real reluctance to relocate to London for fear of what might happen post Brexit,” Charman relays.
Other maritime hubs could prosper from Britain’s decision to quit the EU, the Faststream boss predicts.
“Many of the more forward thinking organisations we work with are already starting to think about life after Brexit and I believe that many will rightly or wrongly use this as a punctuation point to decide where their future global and regional headquarters should be and future talent pools will play an important part in this decision,” Charman says.
Faststream recently carried out a survey of more than 3,000 maritime business leaders and executives. Those polled were asked where in the world would hold the largest pool of maritime talent over the next five years. Maritime powerhouses London (12%) and Copenhagen (10%) were in the fold but it was Singapore which came out top with 36% of the vote.
Human resources movements are often a good indicator of where the shipping markets are heading. Shipowners will be pleased to know Faststream has been very busy of late.
“Across all our regions we have over recent months seen an uptick in hiring activity and this seems reasonably well spread across all sectors and vessel types,” Charman reports.
During LISW this week, Faststream will host a breakfast event to present the findings of its most recent survey.