Industry Networking: Fist bumps, business cards and an industry comeback
A behind-the-scenes look at the much-anticipated LISW21 event, returning to face-to-face interaction a look at how the industry has changed post-pandemic.
London’s alleyways are filled with history. A lesser known one concerns Mr Tawell and Ms Hart, and how in 1845, the former poisoned the latter, his alleged mistress, for fear of their affair becoming known. With what I imagine to be a light and springy step, Mr Tawell set off to work the next day, at the Jerusalem Coffee House, down Cowper’s Court alleyway where traders of the East India and South Sea Companies would discuss the day’s shipping markets. He was arrested that very afternoon and hanged after unsuccessfully defending himself by saying Ms Hart had accidentally eaten a poisonous apple.
The Baltic Exchange is nothing short of the world’s most recognised maritime industry membership organisation.
Whilst his story is probably one of many, what truly deserves our reader’s attention today is the mention of the Jerusalem Coffee house. A gathering place of traders and merchants, it has unfortunately disappeared today, but only because it was bought out by what was the London Shipping Exchange, before the latter merged with the Baltic Committee to become what is known today simply as the Baltic Exchange. The Baltic Exchange is nothing short of the world’s most recognised maritime industry membership organisation. The topic of this month’s newsletter concerns the latter, how the shipping industry is defined by a sense of membership akin to no other and how we’ve missed each other more than we realised in the last 18 months apart.
Countdown to London International Shipping Week ?
On March 16th, give or take a couple of days, I celebrated 1 year of working from home due to the global pandemic we all have become sadly too accustomed to. Yet, that morning my heart skipped a beat. An email had just come in and read as follows: “We will be issuing a press release later today confirming that LISW21 will be an in-person and virtual event in the week of September 13-17. This follows the Prime Minister’s recent roadmap and will be the first opportunity the shipping industry will have to get together face-to-face since the pandemic started last Spring. I am delighted to include the press release below ahead of it being dispatched to the media.” It was happening!
In 6 months time, our beloved industry that relied heavily on personal contact and face-to-face interactions would finally be physically meeting again. I started creating a mental to-do list. It didn’t matter that I didn’t fit into any of my suit trousers anymore, I would go in jeans (or tracksuit bottoms) if I had to. I would have to check if business cards were still a thing before ordering a stack from the local print shop. I would have to observe how others greeted each other, before deciding on how to do so myself, from the large arsenal we now have at our disposal: distanced nod, far away wave, fist bump, elbow bump, bump to palm of hand when miscommunicated, and of course the good old handshake. It couldn’t come soon enough!
London International Shipping Week 2021 (LISW21) took place from September 13th to 17th. After almost two years of virtual panels and conferences, the event gathered stakeholders in person from all around the sector: charterers, shipowners, brokers, classification societies, UN delegates and lawyers to name a few. The headline conference took place at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), as a reminder, a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. Arguably, it took a couple of hours and awkward introductions before the ball got rolling. Once warmed-up, however, relief was evident on the face of all attendees. A distinct buzz was felt around every room, at every event, from the Lloyd’s Register panel taking place on the HMS Wellington to our very own SPNL Gala at the Museum of London. Arguably, there was a topic that took the spotlight: the path towards decarbonisation. However grave the assessments and realisation of the scale of the efforts required in order to achieve this goal, crowds were giddy with excitement of being able to tackle things together, in person.
In summary ?
The organisers of LISW21 did a fantastic job taking into consideration the current restrictions to deliver an event awaited by many. By blending face-to-face as well as virtual events, the week of events exceeded expectations and achieved its main goal of bringing a fragmented industry together in the same room (figuratively and literally). The challenges ahead for the industry still remain, but the heart has grown fonder with distance and we are as motivated as ever now that we are back together.