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Platsidakis says sulphur cap is example of ‘shallow’ regulation

Shipowners, and tramp shipowners in particular, have once again been left ‘agonising’ over how to comply with ill-judged legislation, this time the 0.5% sulphur cap, according to former Intercargo chairman John Platsidakis.

Ex-chairman of Intercargo says owners, especially in tramp sector, are being undermined by unrealistic rule-making but ought to be less defensive given the industry’s record

THE 2020 sulphur cap is the latest in a series of unrealistic shipping regulations that, combined with an overly defensive mindset within the industry, have left shipowners, and tramp owners in particular, agonising over the feasibility of complying, according to a prominent industry leader.

“Shipowners today are in agony about 2020 and how they can find proper bunkers for their ships as well as about the quality of the bunkers to be provided by their charterers,” said John Platsidakis, the former chairman of Intercargo.

“It is regrettable that regulators first vote regulations and, after they do so, they try to figure out how the regulations can be met.”

The Ballast Water Management Convention, approved in 2004 and ratified in 2013, is a case in point, he said. but the International Maritime Organization’s 0.5% sulphur regulation was another example of poor judgement.

“Shipping has been thrown into the unknown,” he told the Marine Money German Ship Finance Forum in Hamburg. “We have been asked to burn something which will not be easily, if at all, available at places where our vessels trade.

“Even today at IMO there are meetings held of how the practical problems can be addressed. Very unfair for a hugely capital intensive industry which has to ensure that it continues serving world trade for the benefit of all of us.”

According to Mr Platsidakis, the regulation would have been more in touch with reality if governments had forced their refineries to produce certified 0.5% sulphur fuels for shipping.

“They did not want to engage them, though, because the refineries in their countries have political weight while shipping does not,” he said.

The noise about exhaust gas scrubbers was a distraction.

“The subject though is not the scrubbers, the subject is the regulation itself which was voted without understanding and respect of how it can be met,” he said.

A recent European Commission submission to the IMO citing reception facilities for sulphur residuals appeared unaware that the facilities “barely exist”, exemplifying regulators’ “shallow” grasp on industry realities, said Mr Platsidakis.

The recent European Union recycling regulation approving 23 demolition yards in the EU, two in Turkey and one in the US was also a “poor decision, with complete lack of understanding of reality”.

Shipping’s performance in terms of safety and the environment was “hugely efficient” yet the regulatory flood prompted Mr Platsidakis to rhetorically ask: “Are we managing ships or are we managing regulations?”

However, shipping companies and industry organisations also deserved part of the blame for being cowed into a defensive and apologetic posture.

“I am shocked to read statements from well respected personalities of our industry saying that we will comply with the regulations at a time that they do not have a clue of how they can do so,” he said. “It is unfair to the shipping industry and unfair to the general public, which has a very shallow view of how ships and the shipping industry operate.

“We have to stand up and tell them that we want to comply with regulations but have serious reservations about them as the needed means to do so do not exist.”

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