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EU urged to take more global view on shipping

The Union of Greek Shipowners has called for the EU to be less EU-centric and more ‘globally oriented’ on policies, considering that the lion’s share of international trade comes from beyond the bloc

The Union of Greek Shipowners, representing 53% of EU tonnage, advises Brussels that ‘undermining the IMO undermines EU shipping’

THE European Union has been urged to contribute to global policy-making for shipping and to avoid clashes with International Maritime Organization policies as most European shipping capacity trades outside EU waters. 

“EU shipping is of strategic significance and a strong shipping community is indispensable for the European maritime cluster and the EU economy at large,” the Union of Greek Shipowners wrote in its 2018-2019 annual report.

“As long as there is a strong presence of shipping companies in the EU, the biggest part of value created will continue to reside in Europe — even though important shipping centres and almost the totality of shipbuilding are now located in the Far East,” the UGS said.

In terms of ownership, Greeks own 53% of EU shipping capacity — three times ahead of Germans, the next-largest presence, and far ahead of Italy, with 7%, and Denmark, with 5.7%.

However, a regular grumble in Greece, and other southern maritime members of the EU such as Malta and Cyprus, is that Brussels is too often fixated with intra-EU market rules when it comes to shipping.

According to the UGS report, “the largest share of EU shipping is international and cross-trading, carrying cargoes between third countries, doing business with trading partners outside the EU.

“Therefore, it is in need of globally oriented policies.”

The UGS went on to warn: “Undermining the [International Maritime Organization] undermines EU shipping.

“The EU should engage with and offer its contribution to the UN IMO, the sole global regulator of international shipping and avoid pre-empting the international regulatory process by adopting variant regional regulations that are ill-suited for an international sector.”

The UGS acknowledged that this is a crucial juncture for European shipping as a newly installed Commission and newly elected members of the European Parliament, embarking on a new five-year term, will be called on to consider legislation important to the industry.

It was of key importance for the EU itself to “achieve and maintain stable, effective and globally competitive conditions” for its shipping industry, adopting “comprehensive policies” that cut across policy fields such as transport, taxation and environment that could affect competitiveness.

Continuation of the existing EU State Aid Guidelines for Maritime Transport was a must in this respect, to enable a global level playing-field for EU shipowners, the UGS said.

The annual report cited figures showing that the EU relies on international shipping for more than 75.5% of its external trade, importing 87% of its crude oil needs, 70% of its natural gas and 40% of its solid fossil fuels.

“With energy security concerns on the rise, the Greek-owned fleet plays a crucial role in securing the EU’s diverse energy imports from remote regions of the world,” the report stated.

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