Shipowning: A sunny place for shady people

“A sunny place for shady people”. That was how the English novelist Somerset Maugham brilliantly summed up the principality of Monaco back in the 1950s. The same could hold true for shipowning. As an industry that has thrived on its ability to not pay tax it is has always had a rather lackadaisical approach to engaging with authorities. Lobbying has been haphazard and without much joined-up thinking – too many vested interests getting in the way of the greater good.

Now as the sector faces among its most acute crises of the last 50 years – the crew change conundrum during Covid-19 – shipping’s inability to get its position across to the powers that be has been brought into sharp focus.

In an ongoing poll carried on this site, 89% of readers believe that following Covid-19, the industry needs to find new ways of lobbying and voicing its views.

Reader comments on the matter do not beat about the bush.

We are the invisible industry. When paying tax, this suits us. When we need help, not so much

“We are the invisible industry. When paying tax, this suits us. When we need help, not so much,” a Splash reader observed.

“Because shipping has no direct relationship with end-user customers (such as fast-moving consumer goods) its advertising capabilities are woeful. The industry has no experience or skill in communicating with people. Just look at the plethora of awful adverts in most hard-copy journals. The industry has no idea how to get attention. And if it did – if a young marketing exec, say, came up with a brilliant controversial ad campaign for their employer, there is no way they would be allowed to run with it. The comms departments in the industry bodies are also a waste of money,” commented one voter.

“The old methods don’t work. We need better campaigns, we need better understanding and, to be quite frank, we need better marketing folk,” another reader suggested.

The current Splash survey – which also covers the post-Covid markets and diversity within the industry – has already drawn hundreds of comments.

To vote takes as little as two minutes to complete and there is no registration. Results will be carried in the next issue of Maritime CEO magazine. To vote, click here.

With coronavirus there’s been so much hopeful chat and conjecture about the sunny, green uplands on what waits on the other side as the pandemic recedes – a new, nicer global society. As and when the dust settles on the crew change saga and regulations are reviewed, will seafarers finally get the recognition, benefits and working conditions they deserve or will the industry revert to its shady type?

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. Maritime ‘Fourth power ‘ is atomized in excess. Bigger size is needed.

  2. The industry is entirely entitled to the poor public perception it endures. It’s a choice it makes. It is long past time to clean it up. But it won’t. It will ask for a report by a Classification Society or similar captured insider group with age old prejudices will keeping it in stasis.

  3. Article is awkward and haphazard like when you have writer’s remorse but you just hit ‘send’…Sam is usually better than this unless it’s a subliminal message to the shipping magnates to hurry up and pay the tax lady and get the mariners to any port but PRONTO!

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