Managing Ships or Managing Regulations

John Platsidakis, Chairman of INTERCARGO
John Platsidakis, Chairman of INTERCARGO

Published Oct 3, 2018 5:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

Speaking at an INTERCARGO event in London this week, Chairman John Platsidakis asked “Are we managing ships or are we managing regulations?

“We were supposed to do the first, but I am afraid we are mostly doing the second! By the time we conclude one regulation, another one appears in the scene.”

INTERCARGO welcomes regulations which are practical, possible to achieve and which take into consideration the way ocean going tramp shipping performs, he said. “Along with our hugely supportive attitude for IMO we have, though, our concerns of how well IMO comes up with practical and achievable regulations.”

Platsidakis said that despite the vast and valuable shipping expertise which is accumulated at IMO, most of the representatives of its 174 member states have a very inadequate knowledge of shipping operations and, in order to reflect and satisfy the very shallow understanding of it by the citizens of their countries, adopt a knee-jerk approach and vote for regulations which are out of touch with reality.

He notes that the ballast water management convention was approved and, when it came to force in 2017, the needed technology was hardly in place. “My question is when it was voted in 2004 on which technology was it based?”

On the 2020 sulfur cap involving the switch from 3.5 percent sulfur bunkers to 0.5 percent, he says: “Consider the following: When governments want to regulate car emissions they impose the regulation on the car manufacturers not on the individual car owners. What happened to shipping? The burden was imposed on the ships (ie the car owners) and not on the bunker suppliers (oil refineries, oil traders etc). 

“The reason being that, regrettably, ocean going tramp shipping does not have significant political weight, as it is not an industry of the politically strong countries. For the above argument, the burden could have been imposed on the oil refineries, but it was not as they have their own political weight. Concluding on this regulation, we have been instructed by strict regulation to use 0.5 percent sulfur bunkers but the regulators cannot tell us where to find it.”

Continuing his automotive analogy, he noted the need to reduce CO2 emissions: “By all means we support it too, but when it comes to its practical implementation in most cases it is the charterers who dictate the trade pattern of the ships, from where to where to go and at which speed. Distance and speed determine the CO2 emissions, not the ship, i.e. the shipowner...

“You rent a car for one week but you do not use the car and leave it idle. Somebody else rents a car and uses it driving around 24 hours for seven days at speeds of his choice. In the first case no CO2 emissions are produced while in the second case plenty of emissions were produced. Whom should we blame, the car rental company or the car user? Certainly the second. What happens in shipping? We blame the ship not the charterer.”

It is about time to stand up and explain to the unaware public that shipowners are not the ones to blame, he says. “We own and operate ships, we do not build ships, we do not manufacture engines, we do not produce bunkers.

“I would like to send a very clear message to the regulators: Make the best ones available and be sure that we will be the first ones to applaud them and adopt them. The reason being that, as we operate in a hugely competitive environment, we do not have any other option but to comply.

“We have to stop giving the impression to the unaware public that we are guilty. We invest substantial amounts of money in a capital intensive industry, we transport 90 percent of world trade in the most cost and safe effective way, we contribute a lot to the high standards of living, which societies enjoy as compared with the past, and in no way we can be the scapegoats.”

INTERCARGO held its Annual General Meeting, Executive and Technical Committees’ meetings in London on October 1 and 2, re-iterating its commitment to a safe, efficient, high quality and environmentally-friendly dry cargo shipping industry and its support for an industry governed by free and fair competition. The main topics were the Safe Carriage of Cargoes, Investigation of Casualties by Flag Administrations, Air Emissions (including the 2020 Sulfur Limit regulation and Greenhouse Gases), Ballast Water Management, the nonavailability and adequacy of Port Reception Facilities for cargo residues, Port State Control transparency and anti-corruption practices, Design Standards for Bulk carriers and related equipment. More information is available here.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.