The difficult market conditions across the market sectors are almost a given, so gone were the lugubrious market forecasting sessions and (usually wrong) economic prognostications of previous years. Instead, the ability of the industry to deal with the regulatory and the cost sides of shipping took the center stage.
Graham Westgarth, Chairman of Intertanko, and Nikky Pappadakis, Chairman Emeritus of Intercargo, both came down hard on the politicisation of regulations. Captain Westgarth, who has now joined GasLog from Teekay, weighing in on ballast water treatment issues, said: “What is disappointing is that the IMO is driven by political considerations.”
Other discussions around the room pointed at a lack of transparency and equipment that may be inappropriate. Pappadakis, talked about the need for global approaches, before taking aim at the bucketloads of regulation being dumped on the industry. In discussing environmental measures, Pappadakis said: “Bad regulation will cost consumers more… and the environmental issues will be slim.”
Robert Lorenz-Meyer from Ernst Russ, speaking on behalf of Bimco (where he was previously president), commented that, “this regulatory train cannot be stopped.” He said that Bimco is looking “…workable and affordable global legislation…” Throughout this group of presentations, there was a groundswell of support for the role of the IMO, with Matt Morooka, from NYK-Hinode and chairman of ICS expressing a wish for IMO being the fulcrum of global shipping regulation- rather than fragmented regional efforts.
“Alignment”- where national rules correspond with MARPOL and SOLAS, was also a desire expressed throughout these sessions, with Marooka urging that rules be economically practical. After asking where the finance for retrofitted ballast water treatment (BWT) will come from, he informed that: “Sustainable development has an economic dimension.
“Unification” was another current of the discussions; opining on the plethora of industry associations, Westgarth offered that: “There are too many bodies, it’s too fragmented, and we in the maritime business don’t have the influence that we deserve.” The panel also considered (without any firm questions) whether all of the industry associations, including the big four who comprise the “Roundtable”, should combine, mimicking a recent development from the cruise business.
Seafarer issues also loomed large in the big picture- particularly as the Maritime Labor Convention comes into force later this year. Doug Stevenson, from the Center for Seafarers’ Rights at the Seamen’s Church Institute, called this implementation a “wake up call” for the industry. Westgarth asked the question of whether mariners would drown under all the required paperwork that accompanies each new regulatory initiative.