Keynote speech by Richard Sadler, CEO Lloyd’s Register, at the annual Donaldson Lecture to the Lloyd’s Market Association.
Extracts from the speech follow:
"I have always been fascinated by the assertion of Martin Stopford, the respected Clarkson analyst, that merchant shipping is the biggest poker game in the world. Since hearing it, I increasingly believe that working out the odds of ensuring consistent prosperity is so difficult that it is more like the game of roulette.
In roulette, the odds are designed so that, over time immemorial, the punters will always lose 5.28 cents of every dollar they wager. Let’s hope shipping proves a better bet.
As an island society, we are almost totally dependent upon maritime transport for food and energy supplies. Could there be two more critical commodities?
Forty per cent of the food we consume is imported and, since 2004, the UK has been a net-importer of the energy we need to keep our families warm and our businesses thriving. The trend towards import dependence is growing.
Despite slowing demand for petrol, our dependency on oil and petroleum product imports continues to grow at pace: according to second quarter DECC statistics, we imported 5.5 million tonnes more of those products than we exported, compared with just 3.4 million tonnes a year ago, or a comparative growth of 62% in one year.
This growing dependence on imports is, as I have said, coinciding with an unprecedented erosion of our maritime capabilities, making us captive to the nations who deliver the basic commodities we must have.
Does that sound like a sensible gamble to you … or a reckless punt on a longshot?