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The corridors of power ...

I'd like to dedicate this column to a reader who wrote in to complain about the frivolous nature of my writing. This week, I'd like to discuss the technicalities of the operating and financial review.

Actually, no, that’s a bit too light-hearted. How about an analysis of the proposed international standard on auditing 300?

No, still too lightweight. So how about this: London risks losing its crown as the world’s biggest maritime services centre, according to a new report by the Corporation of London.

More than 1,750 firms participate in maritime activity from a London base, providing ship-broking, insurance, legal and other services. The combined net overseas earnings from maritime services and UK shipping totalled £2.2bn in 2002.

However, 59% of those surveyed for the report believe London will have lost its pre-eminence in 10-20 years’ time. Rivals with competing maritime service clusters include Shanghai, Hamburg, Singapore, Piraeus, Hong Kong, Monaco, New York, Oslo and Rotterdam.

The report suggests several counter measures. London could develop a wider perception of itself as a national maritime services cluster, calling on expertise from cities such as Southampton, Glasgow and Liverpool where their lower cost bases may prevent losing business to overseas cities.

Another is to develop a strategy of involvement in emerging competing clusters overseas. This may prevent any one competitor from gaining dominance at London’s expense. It would help if London had more public sector support – rival maritime centres already benefit from active government support.

Dull enough? Don’t worry: we can’t all be chartered accountants.

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.

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