President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades delivered the opening speech, underlining how “further enhancing the competitiveness of the Cyprus flag and maritime cluster remains one of the most important priorities of government” – as evidenced by creation of a new Deputy Ministry of Shipping that will take effect as of 1 March 2018.
IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim took the floor next, evincing the hope that regulators and the industry could work together harmoniously to achieve common, shared objectives – as they had done in achieving a 90% reduction in the number of major oil spills since the 1970s.
The Director of the European Commission’s DG Move Magda Kopczynska - speaking on behalf of EC Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc - shared the same view, wishing for “better regulation” as a result of “extensive consultation” with industry that would ensure continuous improvement in the sector, not just economically but also from a safety, environmental and societal point of view.
International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) chairman Esben Poulsson said that shipping’s commitment to a low carbon future was the pressing regulatory challenge, but that realistically it might take 20 to 30 years to develop the required vessels.
Striking the conference’s first confrontational note, he said he hoped there would be no repeat of “poorly crafted” legislation such as the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention where neither the technology nor costs involved had been properly understood at the outset.
European Community Shiowners’ Associations (ECSA) president Nils Smedegaard elaborated on the same theme in reference to the speed of technological development. He suggested that the IMO needed to speed up its decision-making process to keep pace, and bring in industry at an earlier stage to help develop solutions.
Two interesting panel discussions followed, on what the future held for the tanker market and the role of shipowners in general.
At the first, moderated by Cyprus Chamber of Shipping president Themis Pappadopolous, ceo of Interorient, panelists reached the shared view that while oil demand might peak in 15 to 20 years’ time, the switch to alternative fuels would be a long, slow process, meaning plenty of opportunities remained for tanker owners.
Consensus was also reached by the following panel of Greek shipowners George Procopiou, Panagiotis Laskiridis and Andreas Hadjiyiannis. The worst of the recent shipping downturn was now behind us, they agreed, and expected GDP growth of 3.5% per annum spelled a bright future for quality operators who were able to just tough it out.
“Certainly long term we are in the right profession,” opined Laskiridis, while Procopiou pointed out that the bad times during his 46 years in the industry had far outnumbered the good ones, likening the vocation of shipowner to a marathon rather than a sprint.
A lavish opening reception attended by the Cypriot President been held the previous evening in the gardens of a luxury beachside hotel on the outskirts of Limassol. Here a special Maritime Cyprus Award was presented to MSC Shipmanagement Ltd for its contribution to the Cyprus shipping economy, having grown in less than 10 years since its arrival on the island to a company with 175 employees managing over 200 ships, including a number under the Cyprus flag that had a zero detention record under the various MOU port state control inspection schemes.