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-Ménage à Trois-
Restoring Trust
in the Triangular Relationship between
- Regulators - Charterers / Shippers / Cargo Owners, and its Effect on Quality in Shipping Today.
November 17 &18, 2003
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky
Amsterdam-The Netherlands

This Mare Forum Conference is the official Conference of "Europort 2003" International Maritime Exhibition...


"I don't trust any shipowners!" - said a representative of a major charterer at a recent Mare Forum Quality Shipping . It seemed a sad commentary of our times that a contractual relationship could be entered into, in such an atmosphere of mutual suspicion.

But there is a great deal of mistrust about. Regulators routinely pass "catch-all" legislation that will affect all shipping because they wish to control, improve or eliminate a small sub-standard element in the industry. Because of the faults of the few , the many must pay, and if the regulator was pressed as to why he considered such a draconian response was necessary , he would say that he was unable to reliably discriminate between those operators who could be trusted to retain their quality approach, and the few rogues. Better be safe and clobber the lot. The owner retorts that the regulators are incompetent, or are merely serving up new rules to satisfy politicians who want to demonstrate that they have a finger on the button. Mistrust also begets disrespect and is another regrettable phenomenon of our age.

Owners expect the worst of their customers. They are very often fully justified , as shippers lie about the contents of their containers, or refuse to comply with the ship's cargo plan on the bulk berth or routinely cheat them. Charterers use weather routeing services, not to primarily ensure a smooth passage, but to employ "hindcasts" after the event; to check up on the weather that the master logged. They wouldn't dream of trusting a professional shipmaster to tell the truth.

Mistrust therefore transmits itself right across the industry. It is like the eternal triangle , with mutual suspicion between the parties, and it is getting worse, in an age where liabilities are increasing rapidly, when nobody dare do anything without their lawyer being present and a blame culture prevails. It is corrosive and of no benefit to anyone except perhaps the lawyers , and it costs a great deal of money.

If the quality shipping initiative is to progress , trust between the parties involved must be restored and the purpose of this; a logical successor in the Mare Forum Quality Shipping series will be to devise a blueprint for the restoration of trust and the reduction of suspicion between the partners in this ménage a trois of shipowners, regulators and charterers/shippers/ cargo owners.

To begin this process we need to analyse why the commodity of trust is in such short supply. It could be surmised that it is a function of the cheapness that has permeated every aspect of the transport industry, with every party ruthlessly focused upon the bottom line and determined to fight for every last cent. Here we have progressed beyond efficiency and good productivity, into the wasteland of needlessly competitive point scoring.

When users of marine transport don't wish to even notice its cost in getting their goods to market, when buyers of ships fiercely beat down the shipbuilders to obtain the lightest, most capacious and cheapest ship from the builders and skimp on the specification, when shippers take the cheapest tender and argue furiously over every line in a contract to obtain the maximum benefit to themselves, is there not something that is endemically wrong? Is the whole process just ridiculously over-competitive? Is the ready escalation to the legal process over every contract dispute just unreasonable?
Is there a possibility of conciliation that might persuade the warring members of this triangular relationship to mend their ways and acknowledge that trusting is better than fighting? Can we return to the days of balanced documents and contracts that recognised rights and responsibilities and moreover were acknowledged by both parties? Can the regulator learn to trust the quality operator and frame his regulations accordingly? Can regulation target those whom it is aimed at while leaving others alone?

By promoting the concept of greater trust , this mould-breaking conference in the Quality Shipping Series acknowledges that there is a great deal of quality shipping around and much good within the industry. A focus upon quality has been largely successful, and this is reflected in the industry's hugely improved safety and environmental record. There is ample statistical evidence to demonstrate these matters, just as there is much to be proud of in the industry's greatly improved productivity and efficiency. Recognising this excellence must be part of the conciliation process.

Mare Forum 2003 will have a number of broad aims, within the framework of "improving trust between the parties". It will seek to establish common ground , attempt to refine concepts of responsibility for the reduction of suspicion and hopefully devise a programme that might refresh the atmosphere of mutual suspicion. "A fair price for good shipping service"; "A balanced deal between contracting parties" and " a reasonable recognition of a quality shipping operation " are not ridiculous concepts and we believe that they can be made achievable.

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Amsterdam, 

THE conference committee

Michael Grey 
Lloyds List 
Conference Chairman 
Jannis Kostoulas 
Managing Director 
Mare Forum
Ger Nieuwpoort 
Head Shipping 
Dutch Ministry of Transport 
Chris Horrocks 
Secretary General 
International Chamber of Shipping 
Peter Swift 
Managing Director 
Joseph J. Cox
American Chamber of Shipping

Roger Holt 
Managing Director 
Nicolette van der Jagt 
Secretary General 
European Shippers' Council
Alphons Guinier 
Secretary General 
European Community Shipowners' Association
Marianne Lie
Managing Director
Norwegian Shipowners
Pieter van Agtmaal 
Managing Director 
Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners
Bob North 
North Star Maritime
Nikolaos Mikelis 
Lyras Shipping Ltd
Clay Maitland
Managing Partner
International Registries, Inc.
The Marshall Islands Ship Registry
Arthur Bowring
Managing Director
Hong Kong Shipowners Association

Harilaos Psaraftis
National Technical University of Athens


Jannis Kostoulas 
Managing Director 

Beurs - World Trade Center
P.O. Box 30027
3001 DA Rotterdam
The Netherlands




+31.10.281 06 55


+31.10.270 98 70