Lars Robert Pedersen, Bimco's deputy secretary general, contends that too often the shipping industry is perceived to be dragging its feet when it comes to protecting the environment, but maintains this is hardly a fair perception.
In fact Bimco, the largest international shipping association representing shipowners, wonders if there is an inherent clash between doing business in the shipping industry and protecting the environment.
Speaking in Athens, 3 April, Pedersen set about seeking the answer to this by looking at the historic facts.
He noted shipping’s environmental history began nearly five decades ago with Marpol in 1973 and since then there have been a dozen major environmental regulations coming out of the IMO, including in 2003 the hugely costly phasing out of single hull tankers, down to the Ballast Water Management Convention and now the sulphur cap and then there's the strategy to deal with looming GHG issues.
Pedersen said shipping's actions compare well with those of society at large, pointing out the discharging of plastic into the sea was prohibited by Marpol Annex IV in 1998 while noting "the vast majority of plastic pollution in the oceans today originates from shore side".
"Air pollution is only just about to become a costly exercise with the 2020 sulphur cap. The price increase for compliant fuel next year may cost the industry an additional $40bn plus annually," said Pedersen. However, "on the other hand” he said, “energy has been very cheap compared to other transport modes since shipping found out to burn heavy residual oil".
Regarding GHGs he said "it maybe very costly, but at the same time provide for an opportunity – that the shipping industry could lead the way on a global scale".
Pedersen said that "sometimes, shipowners like to believe they are consumers who just buy the product of shipyards and engine builders". But, this only lasts "until you see the price for a ship where the yard and the equipment maker takes on the full responsibility for their product’s lifetime performance – or otherwise".
He pointed out shipping is a global industry which requires global regulations and must have a level playing field, "which is the cornerstone of international shipping".
He said there is no alternative to IMO, as long as "IMO stays ahead", adding "shipping needs a strong and viable IMO". "This means proactivity and staying ahead of the individual member states.
"The rules are the same for all ships – irrespective of how large a shipping company and irrespective of the flag they fly, so, rather than trying to hide, shipowners should become vocal supporters of the initiatives on the table at IMO," said Pedersen.
"We can meet, and possibly exceed the IMO reduction objectives, without compromising global trade", indeed, he said “shipping is far better positioned than any other industry”, but "it requires determination and will to get the right solutions developed”.
“There is more match than clash for shipping and the environment," concluded Pedersen.