Propelling forward

The International Propeller Club has formed a partnership with Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) to encourage the regional shipping industry's development, explains Thomas Burke, the organisation's president.
Propelling forward
By Robeel Haq
Sun 19 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

The International Propeller Club has formed a partnership with Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) to encourage the regional shipping industry's development, explains Thomas Burke, the organisation's president.

The ideal was actually conceived in New York during the 1920s by a group of professionals from the merchant marine industry, who frequently gathered at luncheons to discuss mutual areas of interest and the future of shipping in general.

These meetings gradually developed into the Propeller Club of the United States. Today, the organisation is a grassroots, non-profit venture with over 10,000 members throughout the world. There are 82 chapters in total, consisting of 55 in the United States and 27 in various other parts of the world.

We aim to promote the interests of global commerce, transportation, shipping and supporting industries.

What are the organisation's objectives?

The International Propeller Club organises various educational and professional programmes that promote the maritime industry and raise public awareness on the importance of waterborne commercial activities. Our chapters aim to promote the interests of global commerce, transportation, shipping and supporting industries, including governments and communities.

How long have you been in shipping?

I have worked for 35 years in all areas of the transportation industry, from being an ocean carrier representative to the commissioner of the Panama Canal. I came to Dubai eight months ago after 10 years with "K" Line America.

How did you establish a regional chapter in Dubai?

Before leaving the United States, I met the executive director of the US Propeller Club and asked if they had a chapter in Dubai. I thought if I volunteered to start a branch there, it would bring me into contact with folks in the maritime business.

It has done just that and I am overwhelmed with the acceptance I have received from so many people, in particular John Ewing, the chief commercial offer of Dubai Maritime City, who has gone out of his way to welcome the International Propeller Club and sponsor our organisation.

What is involved in the sponsorship deal with Dubai Maritime CIty?

Dubai Maritime City has provided an umbrella for us to work under and it gives us much credibility.

They are sponsoring our licence and allowing me to represent the Dubai chapter of the International Propeller Club at the annual conference in Baltimore, which takes place this month. I will be promoting Dubai Maritime City and showing a video of the proposed development.

However, we are only in the embryonic stage of developing our plans and how we will operate. It will help provide a forum for discussion to promote public education regarding issues that concern our industries.

What are the next stages in your organisation's development?

We now have a board of directors and will start to mail our public relations material from this month onwards. In addition, we hope to have our first general membership meeting at the World Trade Centre in Dubai on 15th January 2009.

By this time, I believe we should have around 25-50 members in total, which is a certainly a good starting position. In the future, we expect to hold around six meetings per year and will have an annual banquet in the fall of next year too.

So there's plenty of activity planned and I am extremely proud to be playing a role in this as the first president of the International Propeller Club in the Middle East.

Who have you attracted as board members for the organisation?

We currently have a number of board members, namely: John Ewing, chief commercial officer of Dubai Maritime City; Richard Johnson, regional sales manager of Seatrade Middle East; Captain Duncan McKelvie, former chairman of the Nautical Institute in Dubai; Jack A. Pitcher, general manager and owners representative of American Roll-On Roll-Off in Dubai; Scott P. Jones, chief executive officer of Emirates Ship Investment Company and, finally, John Mittelstein, marketing manager of the Port of Fujairah.

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