904

Views

The Many Faces of CMA 2009

The Connecticut Maritime Association conference, billed as one which would bring us “back to basics,” turned out to be so much more. CMA attendees launch the final three quarters of 2009 in high-flying fashion.

Stamford, CT: From the “git-go,” this was one for the books. Smack in the middle of one of the most profoundly challenging times the maritime industry has ever experienced, there was real excitement this week in Stamford. Indeed, record crowds in terms of visitors, exhibitors and attendees highlighted this year’s CMA exposition. From my personal perspective – and I say this with absolutely no need to exaggerate – the show was the most productive of any that I have ever attended in my short tenure as editor of MarEx. I will have no trouble finding subject matter to write about in the near future. In the end, this year’s CMA conference was defined by those who attended, those persons who were honored and just as importantly, those who provided their expert insight during the working sessions.

The show kicked off with WISTA’s well-run luncheon which honored VADM Vivien Crea of the United States Coast Guard. As the Coast Guard’s longest serving aviator, the highest ranking female in America’s military and the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Crea has recorded many “firsts” in her career. She was a more than appropriate choice to give the keynote speech for the luncheon and her candor and humor did not disappoint. You have to like Crea: her motto of not being afraid to push the envelope and break a few rules has served her well along the way and she took the time to specifically address the many young female cadets in the audience during her address. That kind of mentoring – not necessarily available to her on the way up through the ranks – will be critical to continuing the Coast Guard’s commitment to diversity, fairness and, as Crea aptly puts it, “reflecting the people we protect.”

CMA 2009 was marked by productive working sessions, an excellent cast of industry panelists and an appreciative audience. Of particular note was Tuesday afternoon’s Piracy and War Risks session, which kicked off with two solid presentations that provided real insight into the reasons for today’s piracy and terror climate and a laundry list of today’s maritime “hot spots.” Christopher Coker, professor at the London School of Economics and Simon Sole, CEO of Exclusive Analysis, LTD gave ample reason for the packed house to pay close attention to their remarks. Coker reinforced the premise that the solution for offshore Somalia can only be achieved when and if the rule of law can be established ashore. I couldn’t agree more.

Meanwhile, and back in the exhibition area, an enthusiastic and well attended show provided ample opportunities to network, learn about new products and services – there were plenty of those – and, of course, reconnect with old friends over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Unlike some bigger venues, CMA provides an intimate atmosphere with a wide array of exhibitors. I particularly like the show because I can zip upstairs to my room to crank out some copy in between appointments, or perhaps, just collect myself after a particularly hectic morning. I think a lot of folks arriving at the show were wondering what sort of collective mood that they might encounter. Speaking for myself only, I can report an upbeat crowd that was eager to do business and optimistic that the uptick in the economy might just be around the corner. You heard it here first.

The 2009 Commodore Award Dinner, of course, was the climax of the week’s activities. This year, Captain Wei Jiafu was honored as CMA’s Commodore Award Recipient. Jiafu, CEO and President of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), joined a long line of influential maritime industry leaders as Commodore. The leader of an ocean powerhouse that boasts more than 800 ships and a collective 55 million DWT, Jiafu’s career encompasses much more than that. After spending many years at sea, rising to the rank of Master, he is now recognized as a world leader in logistics and international shipping management. Wednesday night, he was an enthusiastic and entertaining honoree and CMA’s choice perhaps was driven, in part, by the knowledge that China is and remains one of our most important trading partners. If so, then Captain Wei Jiaifu was the appropriate ambassador to drive home that point.

The final days of March mark the end of yet another CMA conference and this year, the start of a mini rally on Wall Street. How long that will last and what that means for the shipping and ocean transportation markets remains a mystery. Without a doubt, many challenges remain. Beyond this – and as I learned in one of the financial working sessions this week – as much as 50 percent of the world’s collective newbuilding order book, equating to about $280 billion, still needs financing. If I knew the answers, I certainly wouldn’t be grinding out this column, fueled by a cold cup of coffee, from a shabby departure lounge at JFK. I do know this: CMA was the perfect venue to kick off the final three quarters of 2009. But, that’s all I can say for now. They’re calling my flight. – MarEx.

Joseph Keefe is the Editor-in-Chief of THE MARITIME EXECUTIVE. He can be reached with comments and/or questions on this column and/or any other aspect of this e-newsletter at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com