One of the key highlights this year will be the inaugural Parliamentary Debate , which will see six shipping industry leaders debate - Parliamentary-style - the motion 'This House believes that the best days of the private independent shipowner are over' . This will be followed by a floor debate and conclude with a vote from the audience itself.
Chaired by Andreas Sohmen-Pao, chairman of BW Group and the Singapore Maritime Foundation, the debate will delve into the complexities and outlook of the shipping industry that has traditionally been modeled around privately-owned, family-oriented businesses, which are now coming up against increased challenges.
The speakers for the motion are Kenneth Hvid, president and ceo of Teekay Corp, Michael Parker, global head for shipping, logistics and offshore industries at Citigroup , and Mikael Skov , ceo of Hafnia Tankers . Those going against the motion are Randy Chen, vice chairman of Wan Hai Lines , Filippos Lemos, president of NS Lemos & Co, and Philippe Louis-Dreyfus , president of Bimco and chairman of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs.
Providing a preview of the debate, Parker said: "Globally the shipping sector has seen many companies shift away from private, independent ownership. This continues a trend to seek outside capital and diversify sources of finance as traditional shipping banks cut back given heavy losses in the industry, regulatory pressure and the need for greater transparency in their clients business.
"Traditional sources of finance for ship orders are drying up as many banks look to improve their lending portfolios and decrease risk. For many independent private shipowners, this means looking to different financial solutions, with non-bank sources such as private equity and hedge funds. For some private and family-owned businesses, going public will be the alternative solution although for many small and medium-sized companies, mergers to create scale first will be essential to attract investor interest."
Speakers will debate the value of going public or taking on private equity from outside investors, and consider whether these are sustainable solutions, given the volatile nature of the shipping industry.
Going against the motion, Louis-Dreyfus said despite the various headwinds facing the industry today, there is still a future for the private independent shipowner, such as the family-owned business he currently leads.
"Private shipowners have the ability to directly influence their company strategy, and hence have the opportunity to be more agile and innovative. Now, more than ever, it is important for shipowners to understand the value of deep research, risk analysis, identification of risk mitigation, innovative solutions and a high-quality team. By focusing on these areas private shipowners will be able to better leverage opportunities that arise in the current market.
"The shipping industry has a founded reputation for being volatile and cyclical. While I believe that the future of the private family business -- especially those in the big bulk transportation business -- will not be as bright as before, I strongly believe there is still a future for the private shipping companies which know how to react to changes in the industry. These include maintaining good relations with stakeholders and managing finances well. Family businesses usually do better in these areas, especially those in the shipping sector.
"I look forward to engaging in a robust discussion with my industry peers on this topic at Sea Asia 2017," said Louis-Dreyfus.
Established as one of Southeast Asia's largest maritime conferences and leading forum for analysis and debate on the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, Sea Asia 2017 will take place next week in Singapore from 25-27 April 2017.
For more details on the Sea Asia Parliamentary Debate and how to register please visit http://www.sea-asia.com/Conference/2017-Conference-Programme