This was the message from Robert Biwer, Luxembourg Government Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, at the inaugural Luxembourg Shipping conference. The event – organised by audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG Luxembourg - attracted ship owners from all over Europe, enticed by the chance to hear how they could benefit from the positive shipping developments taking place in Luxembourg. Walter Koob, KPMG Partner, explained why he believes that Luxembourg’s reputation in the industry will continue to grow.
“This is the right time for the Luxembourg maritime industry. There are so many attractive possibilities that ship owners can find and take advantage of in the Grand-Duchy: from our ever-expanding shipping register to sources of finance and sophisticated ways of structuring shipping projects. The industry was hit hard by the financial crisis, but the outlook now is pretty good. I’ve come from Asia where both freight rates and sale prices for ships are already making a comeback. The industry is bouncing back and the timing of this conference couldn’t be better.”
Of particular interest for the industry are the financing opportunities that Luxembourg can offer. The main source of funding has traditionally been banks, however Private Equity is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative source of capital: in 2014, 25% of orders placed had hedge fund backing. Given Luxembourg’s expertise in investment management and structuring, it will be a natural choice for such financing in the future. Conference speaker Ulrich Juchem from DZ PrivatBank Luxembourg outlined a fund structure for shipping finance, which is already in use at DZ and which could serve as a model for ship financing in the future.
A panel of industry experts - including Justyna Majcher-Williams from the European Commission, DG Competition and Mark Clintworth from the Air and Maritime Division of the EIB - gave their insights into other topical issues for the industry. Presentations covered topics as diverse as tonnage tax, European funding opportunities and piracy. Additionally, the Luxembourg Maritime Administration also promised further enhancements to the Luxembourg Flag Register: a move which could make Luxembourg an even bigger magnet for maritime activity in the years to come.