Mr Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of ECSA, gave an interview to GREEN4SEA team about European Shipping Week 2015 and latest developments in maritime environment.
G4S: The inaugural European Shipping Week is due early March : What are your goals & aspirations for the event ? What would be a positive outcome ?
P.V.: The main aim of European Shipping Week is to make European policy-makers aware of the value-added shipping brings for Europe and its citizens. Now that we have both a new European Parliament and European Commission in office, the time is right to demonstrate what our industry is all about. This ties in with the review of the European Maritime Transport Strategy, which the European Commission is currently undertaking. I hope the week and, especially, the Flagship Conference of Wednesday can provide positive input to this process.
At the same time, European Shipping Week forms a unique occasion to show in real terms the diverse range of operations shipping represents: containers, bulk, general cargo, ferry, roro, cruise, offshore … Next to the main conference and related seminars, we will do that through a series of on-site visits to the ports of Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge.
G4S: What is your feedback so far from the stakeholders that have been approached and/or confirmed attendance to the event so far ?
P.V.: The feedback is very encouraging. Almost 40 different events are being organised during the week and the main events are fully booked, including the opening reception, flagship conference and gala dinner. We expect more than 400 participants to the dinner alone and the port visits are also attracting good numbers. So you could say the shipping week ‘buzz’ has worked very well !
G4S: What are the key issues of the ESW agenda? How the event will enhance European cooperation for a competitive shipping industry?
P.V.: The themes of the Flagship Conference summarise the agenda of the entire European Shipping Week: innovation, maritime skills & competence and competitiveness. These themes are interrelated of course and we hope that a common industry message will come forward from the discussions, providing clear input to the European Commission’s shipping policy review.
For ECSA the main priority in that respect is to have a stable regulatory framework, both in terms of the applicable fiscal regime and the regulations on environment and safety. The latter should remain the prerogative of the International Maritime Organisation, which should promote the highest standards for worldwide quality shipping, in line with the interests of our industry. This will not only guarantee a global level playing field, but also ensure continuity of the positive impact shipping has on European welfare.
The shipping industry also needs skilled labour, not only on-board ships but also in the wider maritime cluster. Without a new generation of seafarers and shore-based shipping personnel, the whole maritime cluster stands to lose its base. The key objective must be the improvement of the attractiveness of the seafaring profession, which can be achieved, among others, through the reduction and streamlining of administrative formalities and the fight against the risk of criminalisation of seafarers following maritime accidents.
In addition, we believe shipping should fully benefit from the EU internal market. Unfortunately, significant administrative burdens and customs hurdles remain throughout Europe, which continue to place shipping at a disadvantage when compared to other modes of transport.
Finally, the EU should also carry on with what it does best: continue its role as a commercial heavyweight. Free Trade Agreements are mutually beneficial to the EU and the shipping industry as they ensure the prosperity of the Union, by relying on the services of the industry.
G4S: ECSA has launched a sulphur survey late 2014. What is the preliminary feedback so far ? When do you expect the results of the study to be released and how this will be further disseminated ?
P.V.: We ran a first version of the survey in November last year. That was of course prior to the actual entry into force of the sulphur rules. The feedback received pointed at some of the expected implications, in terms of costs and schedule changes. Meanwhile, 1 January has passed and there have been some significant developments in the market, notably the decrease of oil prices. That is why we have set out a second round of the survey a few weeks ago, asking also about the experience shipping companies have with fuel availability and enforcement. We expect to be able to bring out the results mid-March.
G4S: New ECA sulphur limit to 0.1 % has attracted a lot of discussion especially in way of monitoring and enforcement of the new ECA rule. What is your view on that ?
P.V.: We have always been supportive of a ‘fair level playing field’. This means that bona fide operators should not be penalized by those that think it is cheaper to circumvent the rules. The Commission seems to have found a balanced framework to carry out inspections in Europe, that will lead to a harmonized approach regarding monitoring and enforcement.
G4S: EMSA has currently issued Sulphur Directive Guidance to support Council Directive 1999/32/EC. Do you think this guidance will be catalytic towards minimizing problems arising with the new ECAs regulation?
P.V.: The EMSA guidance certainly contributes to the harmonized approach we’re all looking for. It is the result of the hard work that was put by the European Sustainable Shipping Forum. The ESSF provides a platform where regulators and industry work together to shape the implementation of the Sulphur Directive. It has delivered very useful results. I admit that we were among the skeptics when the Forum was set up originally, but it has proven to be so valuable, that we are now considering to extend its scope to other environmental challenges.
G4S: Regarding EU MRV, the issue of CO2 monitoring for shipping emissions, what further developments do you expect over the forthcoming months ? Should key stakeholders and especially ship owners act further ?
P.V.: In November last year, the EU institutions reached political agreement on the MRV Regulation. This agreement still needs to be officially approved by Council and Parliament, which will probably be the case by summertime. The Commission will then engage with industry and other stakeholders in the implementation process. In practice, the Regulation will see its concrete implementation as of 2018, but until then, there is still quite some work to be done, for instance on the cargo metrics. We also expect the EU to engage with its global partners in the IMO to ensure that, come 2018, there will be a global MRV instrument. This will require substantial diplomatic efforts, as the EU Regulation is more ambitious than what is currently being envisaged at IMO level.
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