Jim Davis, the former P&O director turned shipping sage who has steered the organisation almost since its inception, finished his speech by announcing that aged 88 it was ‘time to give up a few things’, his chairmanship of the IMIF included.
The 300 assembled IMIF members and guests, suitably bedecked in ruby-coloured finery to mark the occasion, then rose to their feet to afford ‘gentleman Jim’ a standing ovation as he stepped down from the podium.
Earlier lawyer Harry Theochari of Norton Rose Fulbright, also vice-chairman of Maritime London, had paid tribute to Davis as both a “legend” and “most importantly a good man”, whose advice was always sought and implicitly trusted by some of the great figures in shipping.
IMIF had been formed back in the late 1970s against a backdrop of “unprecedented tonnage oversupply, excess shipbuilding capacity, lack of [shipping] finance and general pessimism – does it sound familiar?” he quipped.
The shipping industry had “enormous problems to solve” at that time and seemed hell-bent on self-destruction, Davis himself recalled, “so something needed to be done”. The IMIF was therefore put in place as a “short-term solution” that might bring all the different industry player together to try and find a common solution, on the principle “we all sink or swim together.”
Forty years on and shipping’s problems may appear unchanged, but at least it has survived – and at times greatly prospered – thanks in no small part to the support of industry pillars such as the IMIF and its chairman Jim Davis.