9th July 2020, UAE: The Maritime Standard fielded its strongest set of panellists yet in the latest Covid 19: A Leadership Perspective Webinar series. The event took place on 8th July, focussing on the financial issues facing the shipping industry as a result of the pandemic and drew in a global audience of more than 600.
Former DP World Group CEO, former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Economic & Trade Affairs, UAE and CEO of Green Dome Investments, Dr Mohammad Sharaf, was joined by Petros Doukas, Mayor of Sparta, Chairman of International Chamber of Commerce, and former Deputy Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs, Greece; Sanjay Mehta, Chairman of S One Capital; Mrs. H.K Joshi Chairperson & Managing Director, The Shipping Corporation of India; Bill Guo, Executive Director, Shipping, ICBC Financial Leasing; Nitin Mehta, CEO, Tomini Shipping; and Chris Peters, CEO, Tristar-Eships completing a stellar panel.
Clive Woodbridge, TMS Editor and Webinar moderator, said, “This was the most eminent and knowledgeable group that we have assembled so far and the exchanges between the panellists were extremely insightful and informed. There was a clear consensus that, while these are difficult times, shipping for the most part is in a good place financially and is set to recover strongly over the coming year.”
Dr Mohammed Sharaf underlined the fact that the shipping industry’s performance during the pandemic was creating confidence in the marketplace. “Certain parts of the industry have been financially impacted, but there are other parts that have taken full advantage of it. Shipping is part and parcel of everyday life and that is a powerful reality.”
The inevitability that global trade needed shipping and would bounce back as people returned to normal patterns of life was echoed by Mrs Joshi. She argued that “Shipping has fared pretty well during the pandemic and I am certainly optimistic going forward.”
Looking at the industry from a lender perspective Bill Gou believed that Chinese economic growth in the second half of the year would drive up the dry bulk market in particular and this would in turn boost confidence in shipping. His company, he stressed, was not pulling back, with lending to shipping over the first six months of this year the same as in the first half of 2019.
Both of the UAE-based shipowners on the panel were upbeat in their assessments. Nitin Mehta pointed out that rates were recovering well and welcomed that fact that banks were being forthcoming with their help and support. “Shipping as a sector is doing better than many others, and overall, there is much less for us to worry about,” he suggested. Similarly, Chris Peters pointed out that tanker shipping companies’ finances were holding up well, albeit because of high demand for storage. “As ports begin opening up and products start moving again, business from trade will also start coming back,” he said.
One of the leading financiers, Sanjay Mehta, said he had been ‘bearish’ about shipping for some time and that the pandemic had not changed that assessment. “Global trade tensions are problematic,” he accepted, “but the drive to green shipping and investments in green infrastructure and services will create significant opportunities.”
Highlighting macroeconomic trends, Petros Doukas was more cautious and said the industry was in for some hard times. “Banks and shipping have both been hit and there is not a lot of money around to finance commercial operations. But I am confident that human ingenuity will get us out of this situation.”
Sponsored by Abu Dhabi Ports, ADNOC L&S, JM Baxi, Tomini and Tristar, the webinar was watched online by an international audience, many of whom submitted interesting and demanding questions for the panelists to answer in a special Question Hour during the event. These ranged from prospects for a switch away from the US dollar as shipping’s global currency, and the possibility of more companies delisting to go private, to plans to buy new ships and how supportive financial institutions have been.
The Maritime Standard will be staging a sixth webinar in the series on Wednesday 22nd July. Details of the theme of this event, the participants, and its novel format, will be released shortly.