• Sunday, January 20, 2019

Vancouver’s window of opportunity to build a global maritime business hub

By BCShippingNews 16 May 2017
...Deloitte identifies the VIMC as a key factor in the increased competition from Canada to encourage ship owners to establish their primary business activities in Vancouver.

A recent study published by Monitor Deloitte identified Vancouver as one of the top five international maritime centres that is becoming increasingly important for future investment decisions by ship owners. The study was commissioned by the European Community Shipowners’ Associations to identify risks in losing their traditional leading position as a global maritime hub. It is important to note that the Deloitte study identifies the Vancouver International Maritime Centre (VIMC) as a key factor in the increased competition from Canada to encourage ship owners to establish their primary business activities in Vancouver.

 So what  — and who — is driving the initiative that has the EU so worried? Enter the VIMC’s team: Kaity Arsoniadis-Stein, Executive Director; Graham Clarke, Chair; Yvonne Rankin-Constantine, Director, International Business Development; support staff, consultants and many local industry partners who have been revitalizing the initiative that, in the 1990s, attracted the likes of Teekay, Seaspan, Valles Steamship, Oak Maritime and Fairmont Shipping to Vancouver.

The EU and the other countries identified by Monitor Deloitte — Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and Singapore — clearly recognize the benefits of creating maritime hubs. The spin-offs are enormous. In just under two years, VIMC has attracted two shipping companies (AAL Shipping and Greystoke) and one of the largest maritime legal firms in the world (Norton Rose Fulbright) into Vancouver. In the last 12 months, these two shipping entrants have created 126 direct and indirect jobs and an investment return of $40 million — and have a five-year projection of creating 283 jobs and a $241 million investment return. 

Given such significant numbers and an incredible return on a $5-million investment, it’s no wonder that the VIMC has the support of both provincial and federal governments and works closely with representatives from each to espouse Vancouver’s message that Canada is a stable, neutral, safe country with a strong banking and financial system, along with straightforward regulations and tax regime. These are the business factors that drive international investment.  

From the international perspective

As proud Vancouverites, VIMC’s Executive Director and Chair are obviously biased to “why Vancouver,” so BC Shipping News sought out Yvonne Rankin-Constantine, a Scot with over 25 years of senior executive experience globally in both energy and maritime sectors, to provide the international perspective of  Vancouver’s true potential as a major global shipping hub.

“I arrived in Vancouver in May 2015, believing I could add value to the local market with my international finance, M&A and management experience,” she said. “I quickly realized that this is a unique market, but was rather surprised to find there were not many head offices located in Vancouver.” Indeed, Rankin-Constantine has worked in over 20 countries on four continents and has a reputation for taking organizations from strategy through to successful execution. With the benefit of her international experience, Yvonne is able to appreciate the market idiosyncrasies and potential of Vancouver.

“Both the energy and maritime markets are challenged in Vancouver,” she said, “but both have such amazing potential to be internationally competitive. That’s what attracted me to the VIMC — their belief and commitment in increasing Vancouver’s profile to international shipping companies showed me that they get it. They understand the potential jobs and GDP impact by having these companies create a Vancouver presence.”

“And there are none better suited than Kaity and Graham to make this happen. With years in the industry and connections that span the globe, their progress to date is nothing short of phenomenal,” Rankin-Constantine said, explaining that other markets have made investments that dwarf the VIMC’s budget without making as much progress.

Echoing the words of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport Canada, Rankin-Constantine described Canada as a “maritime trading nation” but that it takes a holistic approach to truly capitalize on that title. “Billions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure improvements in ports and terminals to facilitate throughput of cargo and, while that’s very important, the VIMC is more focused on creating an environment that will attract the high-value, highly skilled clean jobs which are actually driving global trade. These careers go beyond the local economic activity generated when a ship enters the port. These are the ‘white collar jobs’ — the accountants, lawyers, financial and banking experts, insurance brokers, and others who are facilitating global trade and, by extension, generating even more business to take advantage of the infrastructure investment.”

To illustrate her point, Rankin-Constantine provided a value pyramid of a maritime cluster and the type of activity that is attracted by locating operations offices locally (Figure 1). She also provided an overview of the GDP contribution of maritime corporate activities in other countries (Figure 2) to demonstrate the dollar figures at stake. “Canada currently is not capitalizing on this potential to significantly grow its GDP,” she said. “Just look at the figures for Singapore ($21 billion) or Oslo ($28 billion) for example. What an opportunity!”

A good problem to have

To take full advantage of the opportunities that increased corporate maritime activities will offer, the VIMC recognized the potential of a skills gap and built in an education component to their overall strategy. To that end, Kaity Arsoniadis-Stein has worked with both local and international partners to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of the Aegean’s School of Business in Greece and UBC’s Sauder School of Business. The agreement builds on Sauder’s activities to develop an international network focused on business studies.

It doesn’t stop there. VIMC is in discussions with the University of Southampton, the Institute of Maritime Law, Southampton, and Norton Rose Fulbright to develop maritime programs that would address local requirements, reflecting Norton’s growth forecast of 25 per cent for their activities in this market.

And additional initiatives are at various stages of development. Working with key local institutions like BCIT and the University of Victoria’s Peter V. Gustavson School of Business, Arsoniadis-Stein and her team continue to investigate new ways to facilitate the growth of the maritime industry in Vancouver and to ensure its sustainability by investing in home-grown talent.

Looking to the future

While funding agreements with both federal and provincial governments, as well as the International Ship-Owners Alliance of Canada, are secure for one more year, the VIMC will be looking to renew the partnerships for another five years beyond that. Rankin-Constantine feels there’s a strong business case for continuing the work.

“The timing is right,” she said. “At the global level, there is a great deal of uncertainty within the international business community — and maritime business hates uncertainty. Our message that Canada is safe, financially sound with stable governments and a high standard of living, is like music to the ears of the maritime business world. And without the efforts of the VIMC, Vancouver, and indeed Canada, would not even be on the radar of international ship owners.”

Rankin-Constantine ran through a very long list of maritime events, trade shows, meetings, correspondence and activities that have all served a single purpose: “We haven’t stopped,” she said. “It’s an aggressive strategy that we’ve put in place and we’re seeing great progress but companies just don’t move overnight (at least, you hope not!). The lead time can be two to three years as companies research the local market and build a business case for their investment in Vancouver, Canada.”

Before closing off, Rankin-Constantine offered the following insight: “I’ve travelled all over the world, worked with leadership teams, banks, markets and governments, and never have I seen such potential for a country. Deloitte’s recognition of Vancouver as a leading maritime hub, demonstrates the impact of VIMC’s branding of Vancouver on the global stage. I just hope the governments build upon their current success and support VIMC to embrace this significant window of opportunity.”