ThoughtStream: Shipping and Environment

ThoughtStream: Opinion

Over many decades, shipping has actually become safer and cleaner, not to mention more cost-effective. International rules and regulations in relation to the safety of life at sea or safety in general have been traditionally developed and implemented with great success, not only improving the safety of the ship but also minimizing the loss of life at sea. Oil spills have been reduced, showing also that the focus placed in the 1990s on this type of problem was fruitful.

The marine environment is currently subject to a variety of threats, ranging from the loss or degradation of biodiversity and changes in its structure, loss of habitats, dangerous substances, nutrients and climate change and thus the civil society demands ships to be environmentally friendly and requires the industry to develop and implement measures that minimize the pressure exerted from shipping ons the environment.

Unfortunately, while there are measures to control and reduce pressures and threats on the marine environment, these have been developed in a sector by sector approach resulting in a patchwork of policies, legislation, programmes and action plans at national, regional and international levels.

This tendency can often create a burden without benefit. It also creates huge uncertainty, and uncertainty is the enemy of business. Sustainability can only be achieved if there is a coordinated and targeted effort to address environmental concerns.

Therefore, regulators must clearly define their goals so that the industry can estimate, well ahead, the cost in order to strategically plan its recovery, so that profitability is sustained.

The time is high to achieve environmental protection without the loss of operability, efficiency and, above all, retain shipping as the most economical transport mode for commodities and raw materials. While striving for sustainability and long term viability, it is important to see a number of incentives given to the industry so that technology uptake becomes a norm and efficient and cost-effective operations are no longer temporary actions but again the norm.

It is important to stress here that noncompliance is not an option.

The most challenging and highly politically fused environmental issue today for shipping is greenhouse gas emissions. The global regulator for shipping, International Maritime Organization (IMO), has addressed the problem for the new generation of ships by establishing a mandatory construction standard aiming to more efficient ships in the future. This is not the end of the story, I am afraid, the climate change issue is not something that needs to be addressed at a later stage. Many argue that shipping has to act immediately and will take action by themselves if IMO does not address the existing fleet as soon as possible.

It is, therefore, prudent for the industry to initiate proactive action so that the eventual regulatory regime reaches the industry in a soft way and in a manner that is expected by the industry, so that the industry benefits from it. This could be voluntary application of operational measures over and above of those required.

Achieving holistic and harmonized international maritime environmental rules and regulations requires a concerted effort by all involved: owners, operators and regulators.

Regulators need to have clear targets for environmental legislation and aim at creating a consolidated approach while tackling the problem.

The industry needs to be given incentives to achieve the environmental aspirations of the regulators and, at the same time, to use synergies that will lead to cost effectiveness and efficiency improvements.

Realities such as climate change will strain the industry more in the future and therefore proactive planning and action by the industry is highly recommended. OE

Andreas Chrysostomou has been Senior Marine Surveyor and Head of the Maritime Policy, Multilateral Affairs and Standards Division in the Department of Merchant Shipping, Government of the Republic of Cyprus since 2004 and Chairman of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) since 2003. He is currently the 111th President of IMarEST, the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology, which has more than 15,000 members in 100+ countries and 50 active branches around the world.

He received a Bachelor of Engineering with Honors in Naval Architecture and Shipbuilding and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and has worked with UN agencies and other forums including UNCTAD, ILPO, COPASSSARSAT, the International Oil Pollution Fund, and the International Mobile Satellite Organisation.

Mr. Chrysostomou will present the IMarEST President’s Day Lecture on 12 Nov 2013 at Trinity House, Tower Hill, London.

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