GlobalWelsh Connect is live Find out more    | Join Connect
EPISODE #33

Grabbing the bull by the horns: One man’s mission to create the world’s biggest shipping event

Llewellyn Bankes-Hughes
  • Born and raised in Abergavenny
  • Adderbury, Oxfordshire
0
share

I was born in 1957 at the Cottage Hospital in Abergavenny but spent my early years in Vancouver where my father was a Professor of Transport Economics. After three years, homesick and yearning for Wales, my mother brought me and my Canadian-born sister back home. I went to St Michael’s Convent school in Abergavenny and then to Monmouth School, spending my summers in Llanover and winters in Blaina.

"It was a fabulous time to be in Spain. I was there when Franco died and witnessed the country’s transformation from a highly conservative dictatorship to a vibrantly open democracy."

In 1975, following in my parent’s footsteps, I left Wales to secure a place at London University to study Spanish and Portuguese. But before starting my course I took myself off to Spain with the intention of learning Spanish and becoming fluent. I spent the next three years studying at Queen Mary University of London and at the universities of Cordoba in Spain and Coimbra in Portugal. It was a fabulous time to be in Spain. I was there when Franco died and witnessed the country’s transformation from a highly conservative dictatorship to a vibrantly open democracy. I ran the bulls in Pamplona, many times, and made a small fortune travelling to virtually every city, town and village making and selling jewellery.

Photo: Pamplona, 8 am on the 8th of July 1976

My first real job was as a journalist in London, writing about oil spot markets for Petroleum Argus, then known as Europ Oil Prices. Within six months I was sent to open an office in New York, where I lived off and on for three years in the 1980s, both as a journalist and as an oil trader.

My oil-related jobs took me all over the world, feeding a wanderlust that grows stronger the older I get. During this period, I recognised that people, from all walks of life, flourish when interacting with others who share the same interests. So, in the early 1990s, instead of just attending major international conferences, I began to create my own while running a publishing arm for a maritime-related company in Oxford. There, I organised conferences and training courses in places as diverse as Russia, China, Singapore, Holland, the US, and Argentina.

"London International Shipping Week is now one of the three biggest shipping events in the world and on its current trajectory should be the biggest in the near future."

In 2003, I founded Petrospot, a maritime publishing, training, and events company, where I continued to travel the world, adding even more destinations to the list, including Egypt, South Africa, Portugal, Norway, Chile and Uruguay.

Buoyed by the success of my own shipping and maritime global events, I agreed to join forces with a former colleague – who also went to school in Wales – with the aim of creating one of the world’s biggest global shipping events.

Back in 2011, when the concept of launching London International Shipping Week was first mooted, it proved a struggle to convince an inward-looking London-centric shipping and maritime sector that such an event would be taken seriously. But one by one, the London-based maritime associations and commercial entities began to grasp the idea and the juggernaut began to move. Next, HM Government saw the light and in September 2013, the first London International Shipping Week was launched.

Photo: Meeting Princess Anne at the British Embassy in Chile, September 2015

Since then, the event has grown exponentially in size and scope. Strongly supported by HRH The Princess Royal, Prime Ministers past and present, Secretaries of State, Ministers from as many as 14 UK Government departments, and dozens of extremely high-level overseas delegations, now London International Shipping Week is firmly inked into the calendars of the British Government and the global shipping and maritime community.

September 2023 marked the sixth edition and tenth anniversary of London International Shipping Week, with as many as 30,000 industry leaders attending over three hundred and fifty separate events. Almost every maritime-related subject was discussed and debated, and the events were held at some of the most iconic venues in London, including 10 Downing Street, Mansion House, Lancaster House, and Tower Bridge, to name just a few, as well as onboard a range of Royal Navy and other vessels on the Thames.

London International Shipping Week is now one of the three biggest shipping events in the world and on its current trajectory should be the biggest in the near future. What an honour it has been to be able to bring everyone together to make this happen. And all of it is down, pure and simple, to the wanderlust of a young man born and bred in Wales.

"I have no magic wand but if there was anything I could do to help people from Blaina, Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire or Wales, then count me in"

I return to Wales as often as I can, but nowhere near as often as I would like to. Nowadays it is mostly for international rugby matches and funerals - rather than weddings and christenings - but in the summer I took the plunge and took an intensive Welsh language course on the Llyn Peninsula and have now signed up for an advanced course next year. I speak Spanish, Portuguese and French, but coming from southeast Wales, where Welsh used not to have any foothold when I was growing up (but does now), it would be the high point of my life if eventually, Welsh were to become, at the very least, my second language. 

I do go back to Blaina - Blaenau Gwent - from time to time but mostly when I do so I experience an overwhelming feeling of sadness - unemployment, poverty, desolation, neglect - but the people are still the same, proud and undefeated. I have no magic wand but if there was anything I could do to help people from Blaina, Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire or Wales, then count me in.

Discover GlobalWelsh Connect

Become part of a growing online network of Welsh people working together for the good of Wales by supporting others, exploring business opportunities and sharing knowledge.

Discover GlobalWelsh Connect

Other Stories

View all
Episode 34

Oxbridge or bust: One woman’s journey home via Cambridge, London, Paris, New York

Episode 32

From over the try line to over the counter: The Machen boy who made it big in pharma

What’s your story?

Do you, or someone you know, have a Wonderful Welsh Story to tell? We’re looking for stories that shine a light on Welsh people’s experiences and achievements, wherever in the world they are. Oh, and if we publish your story we’ll send you a shiny certificate to say thanks.

Growing wales' largest community, online. 99 Days 99 Hrs 99 Mins 99 Secs Discover GlobalWelsh Connect