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Greek owners reject call for regional decarbonisation measures

Union of Greek Shipowners joins chorus of disapproval for remarks favouring support for national or regional rule-making on decarbonising shipping

Greek shipowners’ leader Theodore Veniamis has criticised remarks made at the Global Maritime Forum for appearing to lend support to national and regional agendas on decarbonising shipping

GREEK shipowners have criticised support by the Global Maritime Forum for controversial regional decarbonisation rules.

Union of Greek Shipowners president Theodore Veniamis said that remarks that gave “support [to] regionalism for a global issue such as climate change” were “in complete opposition to the voice of the industry.”

The response adds to an industry backlash against last week’s comments in favour of “leaning in” to regional and even national rule-making for shipping.

Encouragement for unilateral or regional legislation for international shipping, a quintessentially global industry, has long been considered virtually taboo in shipping circles for potentially undercutting the role of the International Maritime Organization and threatening to heap regulatory chaos on an already highly regulated industry.

Mr Veniamis said the IMO was “making huge strides in adopting workable and effective solutions to environmental issues with worldwide application.

“The calls being made at the Global Maritime Forum for support to be given for regional rules and, in particular, for the inclusion of shipping in the European Union Emissions Trading System, are clearly driven not by environmental sensitivity but by personal agendas and commercial interests,” he said.

“They are unsubstantiated and clearly undermine the position of the international shipping industry and the UN IMO’s collective efforts.”

His statement made the UGS, the world’s largest national shipowners’ organisation, the first major shipping association to reject the proposal.

Although the UGS referred only to “certain shipping actors,” there were some remarks made primarily by Maersk Tankers chief executive Christian Ingerslev during the plenary session of the GMF’s annual ‘high-level meeting’, held virtually owing to the coronavirus backdrop.

Mr Ingerslev, who is also a board member of Danish Shipping, the counterpart of the UGS in Denmark, said: “As a parallel with pushing for a global levy through the IMO, we should lean in by showing active support and push for national and regional regulations.”

His argument goes in the direction that the initial focus of efforts should be the EU’s ETS scheme.

Mr Ingerslev said the ideal solution for the industry was the global carbon levy that would provide “a level playing field.” However, this currently had “limited political support” and he argued that solely focusing on the global levy risked resulting in no progress and worse political intervention.

In the same session, Torvald Klaveness chief executive Lasse Kristoffersen, who was part of another GMF working group, said that the inclusion of shipping in the EU’s ETS was a reality that had to be reckoned with as part of a ‘Plan B’ for the industry.

“We need to embrace that, engage in it, and maybe we could structure that mechanism so that it becomes a global one,” he said.

Mr Kristoffersen made it clear that “Plan A... should be a global levy regulated by the IMO, collected and structured into a fund returning the proceeds to the industry.”

Both men were quoted prominently in the GMF’s post-meeting publicity under a heading ‘Industry leaders embrace national and regional regulation.’

A measure of the annoyance felt within the UGS and, reportedly, among certain other established shipping organisations, appears to stem partly from the leadership role the GMF has ascribed to itself.

“Using platforms such as the so-called Global Maritime Forum, they express individual views, which, to the general reader, may falsely appear to be the voice of the industry,” said Mr Veniamis.

“I must categorically say that this is far from the case,” he said. In addition to being at odds with the actual policy position taken by the industry internationally, the views contrasted “paradoxically, also to their own national shipowners’ associations,” he noted.

The slap from Greek owners followed condemnation expressed last week both by Lloyd’s Register, a strategic partner of the GMF, and the Liberian registry. Both made it clear they could not support calls for greater regional regulation of international shipping in support of decarbonisation.

Most established shipping organisations are likely to frown on any calls to support regional measures and any dilution of the industry’s opposition to the EU’s ETS plans.

However, Lloyd’s List understands that some bodies are opting to remain mute, reasoning that this will limit publicity given to the positions advanced through the GMF.

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