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ICS Chairman, Esben Poulsson, sets shipping three challenges

ICS International Shipping Conference, British Library, London.

07 September 2016


At the annual International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Conference in London today (7 September) – in the presence of IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim – the new ICS Chairman, Esben Poulsson, suggested that the shipping industry must respond proactively to three major challenges: maintaining the authority of IMO; addressing the legitimate demand for even greater levels of environmental protection; and making policy makers better aware of the industry’s existing achievements.

With respect to protecting the global maritime regulatory system, provided so successfully by IMO, Mr Poulson said this is being challenged by the increasing tendency for EU Member States’ positions to be co-ordinated by the EU, with negative impacts on the quality of IMO debates and its decision making.
An example of this was the current discussion at IMO about the establishment of a global CO2 data collection system, which the EU is seeking to align with a regional regime for shipping which it has already adopted through regional legislation.

The ICS Chairman warned of the danger of the ‘politicisation’ of IMO debates, instead of decisions being taken on the basis of their technical merits. He added that nations such as the United States are taking similarly impractical, highly political stances with respect to issues such as the implementation of the IMO Ballast Water Convention (virtually certain to enter force next year) by refusing to accept decisions that have been taken at IMO by other Member States.

Mr Poulsson cautioned: “Unless we are very careful, IMO could eventually be reduced to merely rubber stamping decisions which in reality will have been taken elsewhere, whether in Europe, the United States or by the emerging powers in Asia.”

Mr Poulsson then focused on the demands of society at large for increased environmental performance. “This is one area where politicians can legitimately claim to be representing the views of the ordinary person with regard to concerns about the environment.

“We must be proactive in demonstrating that we are doing everything that we can to achieve a zero accident rate and pollution free environmental record, even if at present these goals are not fully achievable. We must respond to these genuine environmental concerns by supporting the development of progressive solutions at IMO, and acting constructively and with foresight on the understanding that society at large now expects far more from us.”

He concluded his first major address, since election as ICS Chairman, by encouraging the shipping industry to continuously ‘raise the bar’ – emphasising that the reputation of shipping, and the respect which national politicians have for unique institutions such as IMO, ultimately depends on the industry’s safety record and environmental performance.

“We have to accept that society at large now expects far more from us, and even the smallest deficiencies will no longer be tolerated. Core to this is the question of how we are perceived by others, and whether the recognition our industry enjoys among policy makers and politicians needs to be further enhanced.”

As well as a keynote speech by the IMO Secretary-General, the ICS Conference included detailed presentations and discussion on many key issues in which ICS is currently involved on behalf of the global industry including the reduction of CO2 emissions, ballast water regulation, the threat to limitation of shipowner liability, seafarer supply, and overcapacity.