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alphabet spaghetti


THE ALPHABET soup of maritime organisations, a phrase coined by Spinnaker’s former Chairman Michael Grey, aptly describes the rather large number of organisations who represent (or claim to represent) various sectors of our industry.

It has long been seen as a problem that too many voices dilute the message in our and means little gets done. Hence, we have seen collaborative efforts in shipping as industry bodies come together. The Round Table of International Shipping Associations (ICS, ISF, BIMCO, INTERTANKO and INTERCARGO) was set up “to press for a unified industry voice in the creation of industry policy and strategy”. And in the UK, the shipping, ports and maritime business service sectors formally agreed to work together to speak with “One Voice” back in 2008. Now known as Maritime UK, its members are the Baltic Exchange, the British Ports Association, the Chamber of Shipping, the Federation Council of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, Maritime London, the Passenger Shipping Association and the UK Major Ports Group.

The subject was taken up recently by UK former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine in a report “No Stone Unturned in Pursuit of Growth”. He criticises the way trade body representation works, describing it as “fragmented, duplicative and often poorly resourced”.

“The result is a proliferation of bodies of variable quality,” he says. Apparently there are around 3500 trade bodies in the UK alone. Lord Heseltine calls for the introduction of a lead association for each industry sector, nominated by government, through which government would channel its engagement with the sector.

This may not go down so well in some industries – the four bodies representing the recruitment industry have reacted very differently, including pointing out that the proposals risk marginalising their members’ distinct specialist voices – but in shipping it appears that we are on the money for once. Now all we have to do is find a way to make the Government hear us!

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