UK Chamber President Kenneth MacLeod great example of how our industry can help build the ‘aspiration nation’


As Stena’s Kenneth MacLeod took over at the helm of the UK Chamber of Shipping last week, Politics Home - the UK’s leading political news website - came to meet the new President and find out about his rise from galley boy to successful shipping businessman and internationally-respected maritime expert, and his agenda for the UK Chamber over the next year.

The Chancellor used the phrase “aspiration” in his Budget statement last week, and Kenneth’s rise is a textbook example of where aspiration can take you.

“There are a million young people unemployed in this country, we are an industry that is creating jobs,” he said in the interview.

Kenneth MacLeod went on to explain how he started his life at sea on a Clyde steamer.

“I come from a long line of Scottish seafarers,” he says. “Crofting and fishing is what they did and I was determined that I was going to be the fifth generation of my family that went to sea.”

His father and mother were equally determined that Kenneth was not going to sea and decided that a spell as a galley boy on a busy steamer on the Clyde would show the harsh realities of life on board. However, Ken loved the mariner’s life and in 1960 joined J&J Denholm as an indentured apprentice – he would be at sea for the next 12 years.

In 1972, he moved ashore to become a Marine Superintendent with Henry Abram Ltd and then in 1978 joined Denholm MacLay, where he managed a fleet of roll-on/roll-off, diving support and gas tanker vessels. 

In 1983 he was invited by the Olsson family, the Swedish owners of the Stena Group, to help establish a UK ship management division, Northern Marine Management which grew to operating 120 vessels and employing 5,500 seafarers. Ken remains a non-executive Director of Northern Marine, Director of several Stena companies and Chairman of Stena Line (UK) Limited.

The interview also covers Kenneth’s priorities in his role as UK Chamber President. Describing the sector as ‘the Silent Giant’ he highlighted shipping’s contribution to the economy and the role it can play in helping reduce youth unemployment.

“There are jobs that can be created and one of our initiatives will be to plug into government funding available for apprenticeship, for example catering and deck ratings.”

Ken also raised sulphur emission legislation as an area of concern after the UK Chamber’s recent report which warns they could cause adverse environmental effects and result in a loss of 2,000 maritime services jobs.

The flat lining economy is also of concern to the maritime industry, though Kenneth expressed confidence the industry will “deliver prosperity” for Britain, helping implement the recommendation in the Heseltine Report that demands Government and industry work more closely than ever before.

He wants to build on the UK Chamber’s work preparing the ground for a ministerial-level, inter-departmental national maritime strategy and hopes that 2013 is the year it will be delivered.

Kenneth also brought up the big issues of the Scottish independence referendum, and uncertainty around the EU, both of which were addressed in more detail in his inaugural speech as President and can be read about here

Kenneth’s interview with Politics Home can be read in full by clicking here