EuropeMaritime CEOOperations

Faststream: Brexit uncertainty creating London talent strain

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.


Splash is Asia Shipping Media’s flagship title offering timely, informed and global news from the maritime industry 24/7.


  1. I don’t believe Brexit is going to cause a skills shortage in Shipping. First and foremost Brexit is about maintaining economic relations between the UK and its European partners- skilled labour exchange definitely counts as part of this- and the skill level in shipping is undoubtedly high. A key factor behind the vote for Brexit was to put a halt to unchecked mass immigration of low skilled workers from Europe, from recently joined countries. If you are running a sports clothing warehouse or a chain of espresso bars employing low-skilled EU nationals and paying minimum wage , then you should be worried. But not if you are at executive level in a Shipping organisation.

  2. Of course Brexit will impact the level of talent available in the UK, especially skills that are in demand globally. What incentive will the EU have to agree to replicate the current free flow of talent, goods and services with a small market with far less to offer than it has to gain? Especially one that has just rejected it. If the May government really sees the Europeans as its ‘partners’, why is it leaving the EU?

  3. I think if anything, Brexit will be a stimulant to the UK maritime sector. Shipping is a global business and an industry where the UK has deep roots. As we have engaged so closely with EU economies in recent decades a lot of our shipping knowledge has actually disappeared, trade patterns have shifted to become more euro centric, modes of transport changed with this shifting trade pattern. If UK truly seeks to engage globally beyond the EU constraints then shipping will have an important role to play in that expanded global engagement. If the City of London has its wings cut in its ability to offer financial services in the EU then it is going to need other avenues and shipping and related industries (Law, Insurance, Trade Finance etc) will play an important role. Furthermore, the UK government will be able to offer – without hindrance – incentives to attract shipping companies and related fields to domicile their business in the UK. Brexit doesn’t mean that the UK stops issuing visas to skilled and knowledgeable people, quite the opposite – it is able to take a more selective approach. Let us not forget the wealth of institutions offering higher education in the fields of shipping and related fields.

  4. The Brits may just have to spend their own money and train some homegrown seafarers instead of relying on the Ukraine or Polish trained seafarers

Back to top button