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Shanghai looking to tap into London’s expertise in shipping services

City must attract foreign players with opportunities to win business on a level playing field

Posted on: 14 September 2016

In a shining 22-storey steel and glass structure in the Shanghai Expo Park Zone B, a coffee bar was opened on Sunday designed to resemble the Virginia-Baltic coffee house in London some 200 years ago, where various players in the shipping community met and exchanged information.

Situated on the 20th floor of the office building, the new post-modern style café named Baltic Coffee House has an obvious implication — that Shanghai is keen to repeat London’s success in building a world-class maritime centre.

Prominent guests, including the Lord Mayor of the City of London and officials from the local Shanghai government, shook hands at the opening ceremony and noted how important both cities were to each other.

“We saw Shanghai as a mutual partner, not as a competitor,” said Maritime London chief executive Doug Barrow, who also participated in the inauguration ceremony.

“We have had a vision of working with Shanghai for a long time.”

The unveiling of the coffee shop was just one of the events held during the 2016 Shanghai International Shipping Week, supported by Maritime London. The SISW has been held since 2009.

The two cities complement each other in the maritime sector, added Ben Zhang, chairman of Shanghai Maritime & Finance Excellence Center, organiser of the SISW and operator of the coffee house.

Shanghai boasts the world’s busiest container port and some of the country’s largest shipyards. But in its quest to become a top international shipping hub the city lacks a developed shipping service sector, something which London is proud to have.

Meanwhile, London-headquartered firms engaging in ship brokerage, finance, insurance and legal services are looking to capitalise more on the large Shanghai market and even in China as a whole.

Local authorities here have no shortage of ambition in facilitating such a partnership. For example, the office building, which gives occupants rental discounts, is backed by the local government’s initiative to develop a shipping cluster.

In fact, a number of UK shipping service companies have already established a foothold in Shanghai. Shipbrokers such as Braemar are very active players in the Chinese shipbuilding market.

But some others, including shipmanagers, insurers and law firms, are still seeing their business activities limted by the country’s rigid policies towards foreign firms.

“What we can do is to show them the ways that we have achieved,” Mr Barrow told Lloyd’s List on the sidelines of a SISW conference on Monday.

He pointed out that a key factor in London’s success rests on its openness to players from anywhere in the world, and Shanghai “must attract foreign players with opportunities to win business on a level playing field”.

“If you want more UK companies or other companies to come into the offices (in Shanghai), they have to be here to make profit,” he added. “Those companies will not come here just because of two years of free-rent offices.”

Still, Mr Barrow believed the city’s success in becoming a world-class maritime centre was just a matter of time, and Shanghai and London could work together on a wider range of maritime issues ahead.

One of them is linked to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. As the country’s business sector will have to deal with the uncertainty created by Brexit, Shanghai is welcome to explore opportunities, according to Mr Barrow.

“We survive because we are able to adapt to changes, this is yet another change, maybe not the one we wanted, but that’s what we got,” he said.

One opportunity is, unsurprisingly, Chinese investment.

Some Chinese companies are already in negotiations with their London-based counterparts in the shipping service sector, seeking to acquire a stake in the latter, according to Mr Barrow.

Source: Lloyd’s List, Tuesday 13 September 2016
by Cichen Shen

What is Maritime London?

Maritime London – the promotional body for UK based companies providing professional services to the international shipping industry

Funded by over 100 companies and organisations from a wide range of disciplines, Maritime London ensures that the UK remains a world beating location to base a maritime related business. Maritime London’s mission is to promote the UK as the world’s premier maritime business centre.

Our core Maritime Services

The UK is home to a world beating array of professional maritime service providers. Maritime sectors include:

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