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Maritime Clusters: Out to overtake London?

Aside from London, the maritime world is also looking to important existing and newer maritime clusters which have developed in the last decade. A number of other cities across the world including Singapore, Hamburg and Piraeus, as well as Oslo and Hong Kong are established as leading shipping commercial centres. Other centres both inside and outside the EU are seeking to pick up London maritime business, with Greece on a drive to attract UK-based owners and marine insurance brokers for an enhanced post-Brexit maritime cluster in Piraeus.

With 15-20% of the global fleet owned or managed through Greece or by Greek interests, Piraeus is already one of the most important European shipping hubs outside London. It continues to maintain a complete cluster of highly experienced shipping professionals and service providers, including the major P&I Clubs, insurers, surveyors and its vast pool of shipping operations/technical personnel which support, advise and supply shipping markets worldwide. While Greek shipping lawyers will continue to use London arbitration and ADR, Brexit may enhance the maritime services sector in Piraeus at the expense of London.

Houston is anticipating a long-term Brexit boost, with the recent start of bilateral US/UK trade talks. In August this year the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade visited Houston and other key US centres to kick off negotiations. The world’s leading offshore cluster is in Houston, a significant maritime services centre with a specialisation in the offshore sector. Houston has a highly diverse maritime market and expansion of the Panama Canal has transformed the US Gulf Coast. 2016 was the port of Houston’s second busiest ever year. A substantial increase in LPG, propane and butane exports mean that Houston continues to grow, with ongoing construction of docks, tanks and pipelines. The port of Houston is expected to recover well from the damage inflicted last month by Hurricane Harvey. Houston is becoming more of a centre for arbitration in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. More and more energy, offshore and blue water charters and contracts are calling for arbitration in Houston under the Houston Maritime Arbitrators Association (HMAA) Rules.

Australia’s prime minister indicated in July that Australia will agree a free trade deal with the UK as soon as possible following Brexit. The maritime sector is worth around $1.7 billion to the Australian economy and it is expected trade will be boosted by Brexit with increased access to the UK market particularly in respect of agricultural products. Domestic maritime arbitrations are largely dealt with by the Australian Maritime and Transport Arbitration Commission (AMTAC) (established by the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA)) and while most international maritime arbitrations are dealt with outside Australia there has been some increase in international parties arbitrating there, attracted by Australia’s proximity to Asia, modern and arbitration-friendly legal system and neutrality.

Maritime centres in Asia, particularly Hong Kong, Singapore and increasingly also Shanghai, are growing their market share of the broader maritime services sector. Shanghai is fast becoming a major rival to traditional maritime hubs in banking, marine insurance and shipbroking and the PRC has announced it will work to make Shanghai a global shipping centre by 2020. In the wake of the downturn in Western banking markets, Chinese banks and leasing houses have become the most important source of global shipping lending. The PRC is now the third-largest ship-owning nation, with Shanghai the world’s busiest port. China P&I is also growing internationally. We expect that over the next ten years Shanghai and its free trade zone will become a major global centre for insurance, legal and associated services for global shipping. In China there are three main arbitration institutions which are commonly used to resolve large international commercial disputes. These are the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), China Maritime Arbitration Commission (CMAC) and the Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BIAC) and use of these is expected to grow.

Across HFW’s international maritime team we are working in up-andcoming marine disputes centres including Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Paris which are already positioning themselves to take on London by aiming to deliver decisions on shipping cases more quickly and cheaply.

In Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai compete for a slice of the shipping arbitration pie. These centres are finding particular success with Asia-based corporates who want to do business closer to home and in a more favourable time zone.
Source: Holman Fenwick Willan

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