WISTA USA wears red, white and blue in Paris

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Twenty members of WISTA USA (the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association) traveled to Paris in force to attend the international organisation’s annual general meeting and conference. The program was held in Paris during the first week of October and illuminated the many challenges facing the maritime industry today.  This annual gathering of WISTA members in locations around the world is augmented by industry leaders who participate in the three-day event as both speakers and delegates. This year a record 283 attended the event from 34 countries. 

“It is always a thrill to gather with other WISTA associations and exchange knowledge and experience on key industry issues,” stated WISTA USA President Jeanne Grasso, a partner at the law firm of Blank Rome (who is pictured above, on the far left).  “Running an international conference, and meeting the needs of the organisation, is a difficult task, as we learned when we hosted this event in New Orleans in 2008.  Our hats are off to WISTA France for their excellent hospitality and for putting on a terrific event.”

The conference was kicked off by Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General for the International Chamber of Shipping.  Mr Hinchliffe stressed the need for the international regulatory community to look for rational approaches to effecting change.  Regarding compliance with the upcoming Ballast Water Management Convention, he stated: “The shipping industry is being asked to meet a costly and impossible time scale.  We need to extend the timeframe.” 

Another hot topic was a panel discussion of  “New Regulations and New Challenges for Shipping,” which included Juan Riva, President of the European Community Shipowners’ Association; and Ms Grasso, who commented that “Whistle blowing seems to be an emerging business model for seafarers in the US”; Danella Wilmshurst of HWL Ebsworth on Australian regulations, highlighting  a “New regulation making charterers liable for oil spills”;  and Jean-Francois, Minster of Total discussed oil and gas energy supply.

In addition to regulations, the condition of ship finance today was discussed in a panel led by WISTA USA’s Kathy Haines of Heidmar, with Vincent Pascal of BNP Paribas, and Madelon Bangma of Ernst & Young describing the realities of this sector today.  Additionally, Raymond Vidil, President of Armateurs de France pleaded for assistance:  “Bunker fuel is now 50% of operating costs, followed by vessel cost/debt service.  Owners need some relief!”  In a session on leadership, Birgit Liodden, General Secretary of YoungShip International observed: “The younger generation is looking for value-based role models who have a globalized awareness and expectation of development.”

In the evenings, delegates were hosted at the headquarters for the French Navy (L’hotel du Marine) and enjoyed an evening by the Seine where the United States’ delegation distinguished itself with its patriotic “fascinators”, including male WISTA USA member, Clay Maitland.

The Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) is an international organisation for women in management positions involved in the maritime transportation business and related trades worldwide. It is a major player in attracting more women to the industry and in supporting women in leadership positions. With networking, education and mentoring WISTA’s focus, we can enhance members’ competence and empower career success.

WISTA is growing and currently counts over 1,600 individual members in 34 National WISTA Associations (NWAs).   WISTA USA is the largest chapter with over 3300 members.