The future of maritime gains attention as ALMC 2016 concludes

Carrie Lam
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam will give the opening address at ALMC 2017

Upon entering the cavernous halls of Hong Kong’s Convention and Exhibition Centre on the morning of 22 November it was immediately apparent that the months of organising the HKTDC had put into the 6th Asian Logistics and Maritime Conference had borne fruit.

With some 2,000 delegates in attendance, this year’s flagship event successfully brought together members of Hong Kong’s maritime cluster with their counterparts from overseas. This year ALMC performed the role of the flagship event for the first Hong Kong Maritime Industry Week.

HKMIW, an ambitious project organised by the HKSAR to highlight Hong Kong’s role as a premier maritime hub was instrumental in putting on close to 30 industry events in just seven days, all of which helped to complement this year’s giant ALMC.

At the opening ceremony of ALMC, Carrie Lam, Acting Chief Executive of the HKSAR, said, “Strategically located at the heart of Asia, Hong Kong has long been the gateway to southern China, and the bridge between the Mainland and the rest of the world. Our infrastructure is world-class, rated first in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Our robust economy, trade freedom, regulatory efficiency, and excellent logistics services have made Hong Kong one of the world’s busiest logistics hubs.”

Setting out the ALMC’s stall for the two-day gathering, Margaret Fong, executive director of the HKTDC said: “The ALMC aims to help the industry navigate choppy economic waters and chart a course towards new business opportunities.

“The three main themes of ALMC 2016 are the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and cross-border e-commerce. In each case, the logistics and maritime industries are front and centre.

“In just a few short years, the Belt and Road Initiative has moved from the drawing board into reality, with new ports, roads and railways linking markets along the Belt and Road routes from Asia to Europe via the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to infrastructure, world-class shipping and logistics services and know-how are required to fully realise the potential of the Initiative,” she concluded.

Of particular value to the many maritime participants who attended this year’s ALMC were the three maritime forums covering the three key sectors, liner, tanker and dry bulk. For those involved in tanker trading the panel of experts were ambivalent about the prospects for LNG and LPG trades. Nigel Anton, global head of ship finance at Standard Chartered, tended toward optimism for LNG fortunes as markets for the fuel including Pakistan and Malaysia boosted demand by 2018.

LPG, on the other hand, was far from out of the woods according to Knut Stangbye Olsen, head of research at Norwegian brokers Lorentzen & Stemco, warning that very large gas carrier owners were losing as much as US$200,000 a month per ship. With 2017 looking worse than this year for VLGC trades, Mr Olsen said he saw few prospects for recovery before the end of 2018.

Dry Bulk operators have had to become accustomed to hard times in recent years and this year has been only marginally better. But central to the dry bulk forum was the belief that dry bulk carriers will benefit the most from China’s Belt and Road initiative.

This sentiment was led by panel member Khalid Hashim, managing director of Thailand’s dry bulk specialist Precious Shipping. Mr Hashim highlighted the massive investment in infrastructure projects across more than 60 countries that will be key to the success of Belt and Road, and claimed that such investment will provide a huge boost to the fortunes of dry bulk trades.

Unfortunately, such consolation was not on hand for delegates attending the liner shipping forum. The panel was in broad agreement that further consolidation of the industry along with a virtual moratorium on newbuilding and an expansion of ship scrapping was the bitter medicine that the industry must swallow to survive.

But shipping executives and logistics top brass are not so easily discouraged. Outside the conference halls hundreds of industry participants were getting together to explore future opportunities in the more than 150 business matching meetings that took place over the two days of ALMC. Still more delegates were visiting the stands of the 109 exhibitors’ constituting a presence that broke yet another record for ALMC.

The 7th ALMC will be held 23-24 November 2017.

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