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Sharing knowledge on maritime matters is key to our industry

An interview with Mare Forum president Ioannis Kostoulas

Business Services are key to an efficient and effective working maritime cluster. Financial, Insurances, Legal advise are all widely available in Rotterdam.  How do  professionals in these fields gain new knowledge and share insights? Amongst others via international conferences like the Mare Forums.

How you ended up in Rotterdam almost 20 years ago?

Ioannis Kostoulas starts enthusiastically with his personal history – as a Greek he already had an admiration for shipping and love brought him to The Netherlands back in the seventies. In his work at the Erasmus University he started organizing seminars among others for the Shipping and Economics industries.Seeing the possibilities to expanding the knowledge on shipping, Ioannis founded Mare Forum for international maritime, shipping and yachting conferences. Mare Forum approaches shipping from a more overarching point of view. This way, multiple angles of current problems are enlightened and learning from the sub sectors during the conferences is organized.

To grasp shipping, specific attention is needed for topics like geopolitics, markets forecasts, trade patterns, economy, finance, technology and more.  A broad spectrum of views is shared and debated at a Mare Forum conference by the maritime community, like ship-owners and ship-operators, charterers, traders, analysts, bankers, consultants and entrepreneurs, classification societies, regulators, maritime lawyers, port and terminal operators, yacht owners and yacht services representatives and other members. The conferences of  Mare Forum are highly appreciated by the industry and companies, who are all represented in the greater Rotterdam area. These Companies are happy to send their experts as delegates to speak at the international conferences. As true ambassadors for Rotterdam they make the networking event highly valuable too.

The specific Mare Forum debating type of conferences is producing a fruitful climate for brainstorming, sharing and improving knowledge and intelligence between all multi-professional executives and principals of the maritime industry.

What does Rotterdam mean to the Mare Forum attendees and your company with regards to exchanging ideas?

Mare Forum is founded in Rotterdam, a city in which new ideas, entrepreneurship and good governance, both by the government and industry, facilitates new business expansion.Today, and certainly in the near future, synergy between all actors in the maritime industry is a precondition for the success of a  modern maritime hub. Bring together international professionals in the industry, to discuss challenges and opportunities in shipping will prove to have a greater effect then companies operating individually. The Rotterdam Maritime Capital of Europe network  certainly helps to achieve this goal for sharing knowledge.

Ioannis states “The Mare Forum conferences in Rotterdam, particularly those on Ship Finance, are well established with of a high-level participation from all around the globe. The Ship Finance conference in Rotterdam gathers people from the financial sector to meet with shipowners and operators. It is one of our largest conferences and with Rotterdam being so well connected, Schiphol being only 25 min from Central Station,  it attracts top executives from all over the world. Topics during the last conference in Rotterdam were on increased focus on sustainability and how the financial institutes will cope with this. Protectionism was also discussed, which is a threat for the maritime sector. Knowing each other will enhance trust, which is why conferences are still vivid.

Commodity trade is another large sector in Rotterdam, where in the world can you find the physical flows so close to the trade offices of the international commodity companies like Shell and Glencore?  Ioannis  is already looking into this pillar of Rotterdam Maritime Capital network: ”Our aim is to do more in this great city, probably again on Commodity Trade and logistics , like we did in 2015. Another element of the cluster is the possibility to share knowledge and combine events, like the 25th anniversary of the Green Award foundation, where Mare Forum facilitated a complete conference in Rotterdam on the transition towards more sustainable shipping.

These different conferences with international attractive topics, show the opportunities in Rotterdam. Which other opportunities do you see in the near future?

Despite the many rumours about renationalization of production and distribution industries, Mare Forum believes that the global maritime transportation will remain global as it has been for over thousands of years. Exchanging ideas internationally, learn from peers in the industry is relevant to enhance innovation.

The digitalization of education plays and will play more extensively a very important role on knowledge transfer. To achieve further prosperity in the maritime sector it is important to educate people on all levels. Digitization, with webinars and interactive sessions, will play an important role in the near future. Mare Forum started with webinars in small groups. The financing of the sector is a topic of increased interest and discussed heavily, so this was one of the first topics, with among others Rotterdam based experts in the panel.

Mare Forum provides high-class digital events on a weekly basis. We bring together our industries top players for an interesting and heavy debate without any avoidance of being controversial. In addition, webinars create the opportunity to expand the audience with people far away. Mare Forum is proud to be located in Rotterdam, where the community strengthens each other, while at the same time caters the world with their conferences.