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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ship agents under increasing pressure from telex releases

International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) says that mistakes in arranging so-called ‘telex releases’ are a frequent and growing source of claims against ship agents. ITIC points out that this practice – whereby liner agents frequently have to arrange for cargo to be released against bills of lading surrendered at the port of loading - is risky, as no bill of lading is collected at the discharge port, and misdelivery of cargo frequently results.

In the latest issue of its Claims Review, ITIC cites a recent incident in which two containers, both consigned to the same company, were shipped to a port in the Netherlands. The shipper gave instructions to the load port agent to release one of the containers. This authority was passed to the discharge port agent, who mistakenly released both containers.

The consignee never paid for the second container, and the shipper appointed lawyers to pursue recovery from the shipping line of Euro 76,000, the value of the cargo in the second container. The claim was eventually settled, after negotiation, for Euro 66,000, which was claimed from the discharge port agent.

Elsewhere in its Claims Review, ITIC cites a number of other cases involving ship agents, including one where an error on the part of an agent resulted in a fleet operator forfeiting its entitlement to volume discounts from a canal operator totalling approximately $2.7m. Following intervention by ITIC, the claim was eventually settled for $1.2m.

Copies of the ITIC Claims Review can be requested from:

ITIC is managed by Thomas Miller. More details about the club and the services it offers can be found on ITIC’s website at

For more information:
Charlotte Kirk ITIC
Tel. +44 (0)20 7338 0150
Fax. +44 (0)20 7338 0151

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Moore Stephens warns on new trap under UK tonnage tax

INTERNATIONAL accountant and shipping adviser Moore Stephens has warned that, alongside some encouraging signs for shipping, the UK Budget 2012 also extends anti-avoidance legislation which could result in a potentially serious trap for existing UK shipowners entering tonnage tax.

Moore Stephens tax partner Sue Bill says, “HMRC has significantly extended some anti-avoidance rules relating to leasing companies, so that they apply to existing UK shipowning companies chartering out ships which enter UK tonnage tax. The rules can apply where, very broadly, at least half of the value of the company’s plant and machinery is chartered out or at least half its income in the previous twelve months is from the chartering out of plant and machinery including ships, even where the chartering is to another group company.

“Currently, there is no window of opportunity for an existing UK shipowner to enter tonnage tax. The new rules may however apply if a UK shipowning company in a tonnage tax group enters tonnage tax because it starts to carry on activities that qualify for tonnage tax, for example because it owns a vessel which ceases to be chartered out on a long-term bareboat charter, or a vessel that starts to be used ‘at sea’, or the company’s ships start to be strategically and commercially managed in the UK. The rules may also apply in some circumstances where the company is acquired by another tonnage tax group.

“Broadly speaking, if the rules apply, the company will be taxed on an amount equal to the excess of the net book value of its assets over their tax written-down value. It may be possible to reduce this taxable income using tax losses and/or capital allowances. Clearly this could result in a very large tax liability. Once the company has gone into tonnage tax, the normal transitional rules will apply whereby a balancing charge can arise if any vessels held on entry into tonnage tax are sold within seven years. This could mean there is effectively a double charge to tax.”

The new rules will apply, including where there is no tax avoidance motive, to companies entering tonnage tax on or after 21 March 2012.

Sue Bill concludes, “Generally, the Budget was encouraging for the shipping sector as it emphasised the importance that the government attaches to ‘rebalancing’ the economy and ensuring that the UK is a competitive regime for industry. Unfortunately, at the same time, the government has introduced legislation which poses a potentially serious threat for existing UK shipowners going into tonnage tax. Whilst there will be many tonnage tax groups that are not affected by these new rules, it is essential that those who might be affected consider their position carefully.”

Moore Stephens LLP is noted for a number of industry specialisations and is widely acknowledged as a leading shipping and insurance adviser. Moore Stephens LLP is a member firm of Moore Stephens International Limited, one of the world's leading accounting and consulting associations, with 636 offices of independent member firms in 100 countries, employing 21,197 people and generating revenues in 2011 of $2.3 billion.

More informationn:
Sue Bill
Tel: +44 (0)207 334 9191

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Monday, 26 March 2012

Shipping confidence up on expectation of rate increases but new investment appetite wanes

Overall confidence levels in the shipping industry increased slightly in the three months ended February 2012, to reach their highest level since May 2011, according to the latest Shipping Confidence Survey from international accountant and shipping adviser Moore Stephens. This is the third successive quarter in which there has been a small uptick in confidence. Rates are expected to increase over the coming year in the three main tonnage sectors covered by the survey. But the number of respondents expecting to make a major new investment over the next twelve months fell to its lowest figure for three years, despite a fall in the number of those anticipating an increase in finance costs.

In February 2012, the average confidence level expressed by respondents in the markets in which they operate was 5.5 on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high). This is marginally up on the figure of 5.4 recorded in the previous survey in November 2011. It compares to the 5.8 recorded one year previously, in February 2011, and to the 5.9 figure posted in February 2010. The survey was launched in May 2008 with a confidence rating of 6.8.

Confidence was up among owners (rising from 5.3 last time to 5.6), charterers (4.9 to 5.0) and brokers (5.2 to 5.6). But managers (down from 5.6 to 5.2) were alone among all respondents in being less confident about the market this time, having been the most optimistic in the previous survey. Confidence was up in Europe, from 5.1 to 5.3, although the region remained the least optimistic of all geographic sectors covered by the survey. Meanwhile, confidence was down in Asia, from 5.8 to 5.7, and in both North America and Latin America (from 5.8 to 5.6 and from 6.4 to 5.7 respectively).

Although confidence levels improved marginally over the three-month period covered by the survey, a number of respondents expressed concern about the current state of the industry. “There are too many ships,” said one. “Freight levels cannot go much lower and we will be bumping along the bottom for a while. Apart from owners causing their own malaise by over-ordering ships, structural changes - such as China subsidising its own maritime industry - will keep a lid on developments in certain sectors.”

A number of respondents counselled patience. “Some market sectors are very depressed,” said one, “but a re-balancing is already under way. We have to be patient. It will be at least three-to-five years until margins become reasonable.”

A number of respondents, however, saw reasons for greater optimism. “We firmly believe that the markets will pick up over the next twelve months, although the gains will be quite low,” said one, while another insisted, “We think fourth-quarter 2012 will signal a turning-point for the industry.”

The role of the banks was uppermost in the minds of a number of respondents. One emphasised, “Numerous owners are unable to make their mortgage payments, and a large majority will be unable to keep up just the interest payments. The banks may be ready to announce further rounds of write-offs to avoid tax and to please the markets. It's only a matter of time before more shipowners are drawn into the firing line. We are seeing operators dropping out of the market or vessels being handed over or taken back due to non-payment of hire. The margins have gone for speculators, and charterers can now be very selective and are driving rates down. It is amazing that we haven't seen more established names affected already. Owners are managing to keep the banks at bay with the book value of ship assets, but if the assets were written down to true market values then we would see another story.”

In common with previous surveys, a high percentage of respondents expressed concern about overtonnaging. One remarked, “It is unbelievable that some owners are still ordering new ships, given the current economic problems and the general perception that rates will remain low when the vessels now on order eventually enter service.”

Predictably, political and economic factors – and their likely impact on the industry - continued to occupy the thoughts of respondents. One felt that, “The upcoming US elections in November will act as a catalyst in allowing new money to flow into the system,” while another said, “The continued inability of western governments to either control their spending or exit the euro makes bad times more likely.”

The overall number of respondents expecting to make a major investment or significant development over the next twelve months fell, on a scale of 1 to 10, from 5.2 to 4.9, the lowest figure since the 4.8 recorded in February 2009. All categories of respondent were less confident than in the previous survey, most notably charterers, whose expectation rating in respect of major investments was down from 5.8 to 4.9, the lowest figure recorded by this category of respondent since the 4.8 returned in May 2008. This reverses a trend whereby charterers had emerged over the life of the survey as the category of respondent most confident of making a major investment. This time, the rating for owners was down from 5.5 to 5.2 and, for managers, from 5.4 to 5.2. Over the life of the survey, the highest overall expectation rating is the 6.0 recorded in August 2010.

Expectations of major investments were down in all geographic areas covered by the survey. In Asia, the fall was from 5.2 to 5.0 (the lowest figure since November 2009), while in Europe it was from 5.1 to 4.8, the lowest figure for that region for three years and equal to its lowest rating in the life of the survey. The figures for Latin America (6.6 to 5.2) and North America (5.1 to 5.0) were also down.

Demand trends, competition and finance costs continue to dominate the top three factors cited by respondents overall as those likely to influence performance most significantly over the coming twelve months. Overall, 22% of respondents (down from 24% last time) cited demands trends as the most significant performance-affecting factor, with 20% (up from 17% last time) identifying competition. Finance costs (unchanged at 17%) featured in third place, followed by fuel costs (up 3 percentage points to 12%).
Fuel costs were in fact the second most significant factor for charterers, despite being cited by fewer respondents in this category (23%) than last time (26%). Demand trends (unchanged at 24 cent) was the leading performance-influencing factor for charterers, with competition - up significantly from 15% to 23% - in third place.

Although demand trends remained the number one performance-affecting factor for owners, it was cited by only 21% of such respondents, as opposed to 26% last time. Finance costs (up one percentage point to 18%) were in second place, followed by competition, at 17%. For managers, meanwhile, competition and demand trends (both up 2 percentage points on last time to 19%) occupied the top two places, with finance costs in third place at 16%.

Geographically, demand trends remained the most significant factor for respondents in Asia and Europe (both 22%, compared to 18% and 26%, respectively, in November 2011). In Asia, competition assumed increasing importance for respondents (up from 17% last time to 21%), with finance costs in third place at 15%. In Europe, competition (up 2 percentage points to 18%) shared second place with finance costs, down from 19% last time. In North America, meanwhile, demand trends (up from 25% to 28%) pushed competition (down from 26% to 25%) into second place, with finance costs in third place with 15%.

There was an 8 percentage-point drop (from 57% to 49%) in the number of respondents overall who expected finance costs to increase over the next twelve months – the lowest figure since November 2010. There was also a 2 percentage-point increase, from 6 to 8%, in the number of respondents who thought that finance costs would come down during the coming year – still some way short of the 25% who thought likewise three years ago, in February 2009. The numbers of owners and managers expecting finance costs to rise was down (from 57% to 46%, and from 56% to 45%, respectively), but 48% of charterers were expecting increases as opposed to 46% last time.

Fewer respondents in both Asia and Europe were anticipating an increase in finance costs compared to last time (down from 54% to 49% and from 61% to 48%, respectively). The same was true of North America (down from 47% to 38%).

According to one respondent, “Never before have we been confronted with a situation where the banks appear not to understand the industry, seemingly preferring statistics above a clear understanding of the business. If they stopped providing billions of dollars for even more unnecessary fleet expansions on the part of certain companies, the financing of other small, medium-size and niche operators would be assured.”

The survey revealed that respondents are now more confident of rate increases than they were three months previously. In the tanker sector, the number of respondents expecting rates to increase over the coming year was up from 30% to 35%. Charterers were alone in recording a fall (from 40% to 35%) in expectation of higher rates, against an 8 percentage-point increase, to 15%, in their numbers who thought that tanker rates would fall.

In the dry bulk sector, meanwhile, all the indicators pointed upward. There was a 15 percentage-point increase, from the all-time survey low of 23% to a more optimistic 38%, in the overall number of respondents who thought that dry bulk rates would rise over the next twelve months. Even charterers were looking up rather than down, with 44% of their number (the highest since August 2010) anticipating higher rates, as opposed to just 33% in the previous survey. In August 2011, jut 8% of charterers expected dry bulk rates to increase. The number of owners anticipating higher bulk rates, meanwhile, was up from 20% (another all-time low) to 35%, while 38% of managers thought that rates were on the way up, as opposed to 31% last time.

In the container ship market, 31% of respondents overall expected rates to increase over the next twelve months, as opposed to 23% last time. Charterers led the way, with a 13 percentage-point increase to 26%, which nevertheless still left them trailing managers (up from 23% to 30%), and owners, up 5 percentage-points to 28%. All these figures, however, were well down on those for one year ago. In February 2011, 56% of owners, 47% of managers, and 40% of charterers said they thought containers ship rates were likely to increase.

Moore Stephens shipping partner, Richard Greiner, says, “Nobody could accuse the shipping industry of being faint-hearted. Despite public confirmation that an increasing number of big industry names are in financial difficulty; despite there being too many ships to carry the cargo available to them for the foreseeable future; despite the prohibitive cost of fuel; and despite an ailing world economy, confidence in the shipping industry still increased slightly over the past three months. In fact, confidence today is higher than it was three years ago, in February 2009.

“Confidence is contagious, as is the lack of it. Although confidence in the shipping industry is significantly down compared to what it was when we launched our survey in May 2008, it is still holding up better than many had predicted. In part, that is due to a belief in the product and the service on offer. Shipping people know their industry. Although it is possible to carry anything from pins to elephants by other means of transportation, ships remain the only viable option for an overwhelming amount of the cargo that has to be carried on global routes. So, even if the supply-demand equation is currently out of kilter, there is both a need and a demand for shipping, and that is ultimately good for confidence.

“Almost without exception, owners, managers, charterers and brokers expect rates to go up over the coming twelve months, albeit starting from a chronically low base point. Improving rates may be too late for some, but could be the saviour of others as they seek to demonstrate to the banks and other investors that there is a genuine prospect of more money coming in.

“Shipping is not the only industry which has lost some of its household names. There may be more casualties to come. But higher rates are what is needed, particularly in an industry which, historically, has been accused of under-selling itself. Respondents to our survey this time exhibited a reduced appetite for finding money to spend on new investments over the coming year, but that may change if there is more money to spend – particularly if the cost of borrowing comes down.

“Meanwhile, there have been encouraging signs in the past couple of months in connection with efforts to address the worldwide economic downturn. Europe’s plan for bailing out Greece may be more of a short-term palliative than a long-term solution, and there remain serious doubts about other euro economies such as those of Italy, Portugal and Spain. But it is a start, and one that coincides with indications that the beginnings of a recovery may be under way in the US economy.

“Shipping has a long way to go before it returns to the rude health which made it such an attractive investment opportunity for so many just a few years ago. Given the way that environmental and safety regulations are driving up the cost of operating in today’s industry, it is unlikely to attract, for the foreseeable future, those looking to make a quick killing before exiting the market. They will not be missed. Shipping prides itself on its competitiveness, but the last thing it needs at the moment is more transient competition.

“Sometimes, the circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money. The shipping industry is managing to maintain the former, but will need more of the latter in order to take the next step towards recovery.”

The Moore Stephens Shipping Confidence Survey includes responses from key players worldwide in the international shipping industry to a targeted, web-based survey by the Moore Stephens Shipping Industry Group. Responses were received from owners, charterers, brokers, advisers, managers and others. Editors can apply for a copy of the survey by emailing

Moore Stephens LLP is noted for a number of industry specialisations and is widely acknowledged as a leading shipping and insurance adviser. Moore Stephens LLP is a member firm of Moore Stephens International Limited, one of the world's leading accounting and consulting associations, with 636 offices of independent member firms in 100 countries, employing 21,197 people and generating revenues in 2011 of $2.3 billion.

For more information: Issued by:
Richard Greiner, Moore Stephens LLP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7334 9191 email:

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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Moore Stephens says UK Budget 2012 includes encouraging signs for shipping industry

INTERNATIONAL accountant and shipping adviser Moore Stephens says the UK Budget 2012 contains some encouraging signs for the shipping industry.

The government has stated that it will consult later this year on whether to introduce a rule allowing companies with a non-sterling functional currency to compute their capital gains and losses in such functional currency, rather than in sterling, as is currently the case. Moore Stephens tax partner, Sue Bill, says, “This is of particular relevance for UK companies which own vessels outside the UK tonnage tax regime, either because the company did not elect into tonnage tax, or because the ship does not qualify for tonnage tax, for example because it is chartered out on a long-term bareboat charter, or is a type of vessel excluded from tonnage tax such as a fishing vessel. As all capital gains are currently calculated in sterling, where a company has a different functional currency its capital gains and losses will include an exchange gain or loss. This possible change in the rules would minimise taxable capital gains arising due to (or being reduced by) exchange rate movements.”

Another change introduced by the Budget is a reduction in corporation tax rate by an additional one per cent from April 2012. This means that the rate will be 24 per cent from April 2012, reducing to 23 per cent in April 2013 and 22 per cent in April 2014. The government has said that it expects this measure to increase the level of business investment in the UK by approximately one per cent.

The government has also announced an internal review to examine the role of employee ownership in supporting growth and to look at options to remove barriers, including tax barriers, to its wider take-up. However, the likely outcome of any such review remains unclear at present.

Sue Bill says, “Generally, the Budget has emphasised the importance which the government attaches to ensuring that the UK is a competitive regime for industry, and of ‘rebalancing’ the economy. This is an encouraging sign for the shipping industry, which is awaiting consultation on the UK tonnage tax regime and the forthcoming EU review of the State Aid Guidelines to Maritime Transport.”

Moore Stephens LLP is noted for a number of industry specialisations and is widely acknowledged as a leading shipping and insurance adviser. Moore Stephens LLP is a member firm of Moore Stephens International Limited, one of the world's leading accounting and consulting associations, with 636 offices of independent member firms in 100 countries, employing 21,197 people and generating revenues in 2011 of $2.3 billion.

For more information:
Sue Bill
Moore Stephens
+44 (0)207 334 9191

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Monday, 19 March 2012

RINA plays key role in world’s first marine CNG project

International classification society and verification group RINA has been appointed by Indonesia’s electricity utility PT PLN (Persero) to help develop the world’s first marine Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) project. The project, which is expected to deliver the first gas in 2013, is to transport between 3 and 6 thousand standard cubic feet (mscf) per day of CNG from the Indonesian island of Gresik to another Indonesian island, Lombok, where it will feed the Peaking power plant.

RINA has already delivered the feasibility study, and is now developing the Front End Engineering Design (FEED). This will be followed by support during tendering, and the provision of project management support during the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) phase. Tendering will open in May 2012 and a number of different technologies are being considered.

This is a pilot project which will allow the use of cheaper natural gas in place of liquid fuel for power production. If the pilot project succeeds, the marine CNG technology will be applied to other power plants across the country with similar or larger capacity. PLN has mapped out potential utilisation of CNG in Indonesia. CNG will come from low-capacity gas wells, marginal gas wells, gas flare and surplus of gas supply as a result of a fluctuating gas absorption pattern.

RINA will advise on the most appropriate type of vehicle, logistical pattern, design of the compression and decompression terminals, and documents for EPC tender for construction of the marine CNG facilities. RINA has developed rules for the classification of CNG ships, which are based on new technological guidelines and which take into account experience gained so far in the field.

For photos to illustrate this story, please go to:
or email chris@merlinco.com

The RINA Group is an international company that helps enterprises and communities to achieve greater competitiveness and effective risk management through the conception, creation, management and assessment of projects. The Group has developed the best competencies and combined them with its own values of integrity and responsibility, gained in over 150 years of experience, into a way of working that meets the highest expectations. RINA Group delivers advanced technical competence through a network of companies dedicated to different sectors covering Environment and Quality, Energy, Maritime, Ethics and Safety, Food Production and Healthcare, Infrastructures and Constructions, Logistics and Transport. With a turnover of around 300 million Euros, over 2,100 employees, and 130 offices in 42 countries worldwide, RINA meets the needs of its clients and is recognised as an authoritative member of key international organisations and an important contributor to the development of new legislative standards.

For more information:
Claudia Filippone
Head of Media Relations
+39 010 5385643

Giulia Faravelli
Media Relations
+39 010 5385505

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Monday, 12 March 2012

ITIC says professional indemnity cover essential in litigious shipping industry

International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) has warned that, in today’s increasingly litigious business environment, there is a growing need for shipping professionals to have third-party indemnity insurance cover. This can be the case even in those sectors where insurance has not previously been deemed necessary, and in cases where, despite a favourable outcome to legal proceedings, substantial costs may be unrecoverable.

Writing in its newsletter, The Wire, the latest issue of which is dedicated to the hydrographic sector, ITIC cites by way of example a US court ruling which held that the then-US Hydrographic Office (USHO) was not negligent in causing a passenger ship to ground between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard after the ship’s owner claimed that a reef had been charted negligently.

Firstly, the court held that the error on the chart was not a result of any negligence by the USHO because the organisation conducted the survey in 1939 using state-of-the-art techniques. It also found that there was no pressing need for the USHO’s successor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), to perform a new survey. Finally, the court ruled that the ship did not actually rely on the defective chart when fixing its course. Therefore, even if the chart had been defective, it did not cause the loss. The US Court of Appeal confirmed the second point, but the first was not mentioned in the judgment.

ITIC points out, “Although there was no liability on the USHO, the defence costs amounted to a small fortune and, in the US court system, the winning party does not receive a cost award. In this instance, the party was a large national hydrographic office, but the same could apply to anyone providing data or professional advice. The cost of being proven innocent can be high.”

ITIC also cites a case in which a hydrographic surveyor had been contracted to produce a chart for a telecommunications company to allow the positioning of underwater fibre-optic cables. A significant time after the charts had been created, a ship towing an anchor made contact with one of the cables and with an underwater electricity cable, which caused damage estimated at $175,000. A claim was made against all parties to the project, including the hydrographic surveyor. However, the surveyor was successfully defended on the basis that the charts were created specifically for its client a year prior to the incident. However, the cost of the defence came to $32,000.

ITIC says, “The cost of legal assistance is always high and time-consuming. The ability of the correct insurer to manage the litigation is vitally important to ensuring that costs are kept to a minimum and to allow people to continue with their business and not have their efforts diverted into the often complicated ensuing legal issues.

“Many companies see insurance as an unproductive cost. This is especially true of small companies, where it is one of the top three expenses. We often hear that ‘insurance takes the profit out of a project’. This is the wrong way to view insurance. A good insurer can add enormous value.”

ITIC is exhibiting at Oceanology International 2012, the world's leading meeting place for the marine science and ocean technology community, which is being held at London’s ExCel conference centre from 13-15 March, 2012. ITIC will be hosting a car-racing event, and visitors to its stand (M555) will have the opportunity to win a prize.

The latest issue of The Wire also includes a review of whether the use of ECDIS is likely to lead to more marine casualties and allegations of unseaworthiness, and an evaluation of effective risk management for construction projects at sea.

ITIC is managed by Thomas Miller. More details about the club and the services it offers can be found on ITIC’s website at

For more information:
Charlotte Kirk
Tel. +44 (0)20 7338 0150
Fax. +44 (0)20 7338 0151

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Monday, 5 March 2012

Andrew Cunningham

A memorial service to celebrate the life of Andrew Cunningham, a former senior partner of Moore Stephens, will be held at 11.30 a.m. on Friday, 27 April at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.

Andrew Cunningham passed away on 31 January after a long illness, at the age of 66. He was with Moore Stephens all his working life. He joined the firm in 1963, became a partner in 1972, and retired in 2010. His career involved every aspect of the international shipping industry. He was particularly close to the Greek shipping community, and greatly admired its entrepreneurial spirit and family-based work ethic and he was a central figure in the opening-up to Moore Stephens of shipping in Russia and the Former Soviet Union.

Andrew visited almost fifty countries in his time at Moore Stephens, and greatly enjoyed being part of the global shipping community. He was a Liveryman of the Upholders’ Company and the Shipwrights’ Company, and a Freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company. He was also Treasurer of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate – an association of which he was very proud.

He is survived by his wife Mary and his two sons, Anthony and John.

Moore Stephens Senior Partner, Richard Moore said, “Andrew Cunningham was a larger-than-life figure in the shipping industry. Widely known and highly respected, he was a household name in his areas of specialisation. He will be greatly missed by his family and by all his friends and former colleagues at Moore Stephens, as well as by the shipping industry generally.”

Those wishing to attend the memorial service are asked to confirm their attendance by emailing meisha.rodney@moorestephens.com

Moore Stephens LLP is noted for a number of industry specialisations and is widely acknowledged as a leading shipping and insurance adviser. Moore Stephens LLP is a member firm of Moore Stephens International Limited, one of the world's leading accounting and consulting associations, with 636 offices of independent member firms in 100 countries, employing 21,197 people and generating revenues in 2011 of $2.3 billion.

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