Leading shipping figures have outlined the key strengths of London - and the challenges it faces - as it seeks to maintain its global presence in the maritime sector.

Owners, brokers, bankers, lawyers, managers and insurers came together for law firm HFW's symposium covering the "lifecycle of the vessel" on Tuesday morning.

Roger Hargreaves, maritime director at the UK department for transport, began the session by pledging that government would always fully back the City in ensuring that it did not lose discretionary business elsewhere.

"The UK represents a premium brand. Quality is our benchmark," he said.

In brief speeches, the panellists then sought to explain their roles in the "one-stop shop" of London's marine services sector.

Braemar head of dry research James Johnston said: "London covers all bases geographically. Its breadth of exposure makes it such a great place to be.

"We provide 400 to 500 client presentations around the world each year and 70% of the work comes out of London. A lot of the decision making is carried out here."

Finance is key

Fellow broker Andi Case, CEO of Clarksons, added: "We are completely committed to London."

But he said: "Finance is a massive key to our industry. Finance is in a chronic state of health both on the debt and equity side.

"The big question is environmental. The millennials are now having a say as shareholders of companies."

And he added: "Who is going to finance the current fleet? We need to reduce the cost of finance for green initiatives. This is best solved from London."

Michael Parker, Citi's shipping chief, told delegates that London banks had not been effective shipping financiers in the past.

"What London needs to be about is not shipping but sustainability," he said, adding that the connection between digitalisation and decarbonisation is vital.

"What London and the government needs to do is support innovation and technology, with grants or whatever it is."

And he said: "The Oslo bond market is a great example of what London should have."

The UK government appeared to listen on Tuesday, with the announcement of a new £2.3m ($2.83m) grant to support the development of "trailblazing maritime technology."

The state is to work with the investment community to help finance zero-emission shipping projects, it added, as the latest step in the department for transport’s Clean Maritime Plan.

"Like no other"

Mark Ravenscroft, chartering head of AM Nomikos in London, said: "The network in London is like no other."

His company had four people in London when he joined 16 years ago. Now it has 28, running 50 ships, he added.

He called London a "strong pool for a new generation of workers."

UK shipowner John Denholm pointed to a (usually) stable political and tax regime as a plus point for the capital.

"I sincerely believe that once Brexit has been resolved, normal service will be resumed," he added.

Bob Bishop, executive director of V.Group, said the city offered a quality product through its expertise and IT solutions, which have allowed the company to offer capped operating costs to clients.