Odessa new European maritime hub
Growing Interest in Ukrainian shipping and port activities, with the national maritime capital at the top for a double international trade show
Odessa – It is no surprise that the centre of economic powers is being transferred from Europe towards the East, and this is not only due to China and its New Silk Way project aiming at gaining economic, ideological and strategic supremacy.
As regards the maritime sector, Greece plays a strategic role in the Mediterranean Sea, both in relation to shipping (Athens is the homeland of shipping, hosting some 900 shipping companies) and to ports (since the arrival of Aponte's MSC and of the Chinese COSCO) as the Piraeus became the leading eastern Mediterranean hub for China.
Besides, Greece organizes the Posidonia global shipping trade show which opened this week and, after 50 years of successes, it still managed to attract tens of thousands of professional representatives.
Another emerging eastern hub is that of Dubai, where sheiks and sultans are turning a desert into the “perfect city”. Likewise, the maritime-port economy of the Middle Eastern Arabic Countries, also thanks to the SEZ, is developing steadily in the shipbuilding and offshore sector, as well as in regasification and container handling terminals.
However, the Athens and Dubai of the Black Sea is definitely Odessa.
The Ukrainian port capital, having finally broken free from the Soviet domination, started a port renovation process to comply with the EU standards related to service quality and facilities. Meanwhile, shipping operators are increasing, especially those dealing with ancillary and complementary activities such as production and export of grains and steel products as they can give rise to a dynamic trade carried out by ship.
From a social perspective, new professional training schools and the Merchant Navy Academy are recruiting young people who are eager to work for large ship management companies, thus strengthening also manning and crewing activities.
This lively shipping reality characterized also the two important events held at the end of May. As a matter of fact, two shows including sports events (football and sailing), a meeting and a gala dinner crowning intense networking activities attracted the entire Ukranian shipping sector as well as several foreign guests.
The show included the 17th edition of the International Conference Grain & Maritime Days, held in two days and organized by APK-Inform Agency and by the maritime law firm Interlegal, with the support of great sponsors such as Buhler and Maersk, and of BIMCO, International Finance Corporation (World Bank) and Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority.
The conference held at the Black Sea hotel of Shevchenko Park was attended by over 450 guests from 30 countries interested in the grains supply cycles and shipment from the ports of the Sea of Azov (Mariupol, Odessa, Yuzhny, Chornomorsk, Mykolaiv , Kherson), which feel damaged by excessively high logistics costs to the detriment of shippers, which might be tempted to choose different ports.
The participants included large companies dealing with commodities trading and dry cargo industrial production such as Kernel, Swiss Commodities, Arcelor Mittal, MMK, Stemcor, Cargill, Glencore, Tata Steel, Bunge, Tenaris, Eurochem, Rusal.
The main society evening was held at the Maristella Marine Residence resort, while the Gala Dinner was held at the Mafia Rave Terrace, followed by the football tournament Odessa Shipping Cup at the FC Chernomorets stadium on Saturday.
The Annual Shipbroker's Dinner Odessa organized by the Ukrainian Odessa Shipbrokers Club (USBC) – founded eight years ago to give rise to a closer sectorial community – was attended by over 500 selected guests and it was held on Friday night on the highest terrace of the city at the M1 Club, in the Arcadia quarter, very close to one of the three terminal containers in Odessa.
The Italian representatives who attended the 2018 edition were the brokers Stefano Calza and Giovanni Chiappini for P&I Club and PL Ferrari respectively, and Gianluigi Zanga and Alberto Ferrari for First.
Since its first edition in 2011, attended by 124 representatives of 11 nations (Ukraine, Russia, Greece, Cyprus, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Turkey and Latvia), attendance almost quintupled, and also the quality of the representatives (from 28 countries) increased significantly, to the satisfaction of the main sponsors of the initiative Varamar, Aquavita, Phaethon, Vernal, MB Shipping, Graincorp, Primetransport, Tranship.
At the beginning of 2016, USBC became FONASBA's sole representative in Ukraine, in close contact with the international maritime organizations BIMBO, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO for the drawing up of standard documents, guidelines and agreements. In December 2016, the Ukranian Maritime Business Club and the Shipbroker's Club became members of the Ukranian Public Council of the Minister of Infrastructures, providing it with the opportunity to discuss and settle key issues for the members of their organizations. Therefore USBC is the only active and complete representative of Ukranian maritime agents and brokers, both nationally and internationally.
Varvarenko spearheading Blockchain attack to shipping
The Ukranian maritime operator organized a technical workshop in Odessa to launch its new Shipnext initiative on the market
During the Odessa 2-days event, the ship agent, broker and ship manager Alexander Varvarenko – who was one of the founders of USBC – organized an interesting technical workshop on the introduction of the Blockchain in shipping and commodities trading.
“This is a workshop for those who want to understand the role of the Blockchain in supply chain, logistics and international and sea trade; for those who invested in Blockchain but have not obtained any return yet and for those who want their company to survive future changes”, the Odessa maritime entrepreneur explained.
The topics were: “Technical and Legal solutions for Blockchain” by Marcel Kuhs and Garry Stevens; “Blockchain Agriculture and Practical integration” by Vitaliy Kovernik and Alexander Khyzhnyak, and “Ecosystems and the future of Commodity Trade” by Konstantin Lytvyn, Alexander Maschenko and Denny Balon.
Being both a speaker and the chairman of the workshop – to better exploit Smart Contracts opportunities, Varvarenko established the company Shipnext, which was not only the first one to launch innovative shipping contracts with open source solutions for an easy electronic Bill of Lading execution, but which also undertakes to preserve the role of a Broker and of its commission as part of the performance of the Smart Contract, thus dispelling one of the main doubts about this professional category. “This will solve the problem of delays for brokers' commissions, of non-payments and of the broker's uncertainty!”, Varvarenko explained. The latter just launched two types of maritime cryptocurrencies: Ship Coin, a safety token which can be purchased and used also to participate in the company's profit; Ship Token, a token for internal payments when Shipnext will perform the first Smart Contract, the first electronic bill of lading and the first cryptocurrency transaction.
“We are creating a single algorithm used to transform the old maritime transport sector and to set up a series of shared and transparent rules, with a further integration in the entire supply chain, which will lay the foundations for a safe, transparent, legal and above all decentralized ecosystem”, the company's CEO observed. In 2009, before Shipnext, Varvarenko had founded the shipping company Varama, with branches in Dubai, Hamburg, Paris, Genoa, Limassol and Odessa. “Shipnext uses linear programming, big data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing for instant Cargo-to-Ship correspondence, mainly for dry bulk, general and project cargoes. Our tool is intended for online trading. The great number of customers who joined our platform proves that they are interested in intelligent contracts because they are a safe, reliable and paper-free way to perform their transport contracts. In order to create a decentralized supply chain ecosystem, in 2020 Shipnext will create an open source code to be used as a reliable algorithm to be integrated into door-to-door logistics, a supply chain based on the “Internet of Things”.