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Procopiou: EU regulations on shipping ‘just bullshit’

Outspoken views aired at Cyprus Maritime conference

Greek shipowner George Procopiou calls EU regulations ‘a complete waste of time’ a day after Cyprus named him its shipping personality of the year

PROMINENT Greek shipowner George Procopiou labelled European regulations “just bullshit” at a conference in Cyprus today, doubling down on his long-standing criticism over greenhouse gas emissions rules for shipping.

Fresh from being anointed Cyprus’ ‘shipping personality of the year’ at a lavish industry function on Sunday night, Procopiou aired his perspective on the futility and stupidity of EU regulations, receiving applause from the 800-strong audience.

After telling attendees that Greek shipowners had embraced step-by-step technical innovations to cut emissions, he launched into a diatribe against decarbonisation, praised Saudi energy policy, and ended comments with a jab at gender-neutral language.

“Shipowners are the biggest environmentalists that exist. We love the sea,” he told the Maritime Cyprus 2023 conference. 

Procopiou, who owns Dynacom Tankers Management, has built 135 tankers over a 48-year career, and in the past month revealed orders for eight bulk carriers at a Chinese shipyard.

“That is why we are in this business; we are not here to destroy the sea; we love the sea,” he continued.

“That is why we care. Always we go to the shipyard and we try to improve — through air lubrication and new engines, for example. Although our ships are 11 years old, we order a huge number of assets because the new models are 35% or 40% better in consumption.

“These are the little steps. The rest is just bullshit.”

Procopiou’s comments were made at a conference with the tagline “an agenda for change” and diverted discussion from the serious threats to European shipping’s competitiveness posed by the trading bloc’s decision to incorporate international shipping into its emissions trading system tax from 2024.

Alongside maritime targets that reduce the GHG intensity of shipping fuels over the next decade, shipowners in Europe, including Cyprus, are grappling with the implementation of tougher emission targets.

The ETS tax was unfair to European shipowners and another burden on competitiveness, said Andreas Hadjiyiannis, president of the Cyprus Union of Shipowners. Regulators took shipping for granted, he added in response to a question about the uncertainty posed by the ETS tax.

“Europe is not treating its shipping with care. They are not friendly to shipping. They see us as a polluting vehicle, not a vehicle through which the whole world has modernised,” he said.

While European shipowners were clearly going to be accountable to regulators to surrender EU carbon allowances, Hadjiyuiannis said the same could not be said for non-EU owners.

“God knows how they will pay, when they will pay, or if they will pay,” he told the audience.

The session also included other prominent Greek shipowners Thanassis Martinos, managing director of Eastern Mediterranean Maritime, and Suzanna Laskaridis, director at Laskaridis Shipping Co.

The panel touched on familiar talking points, from shipping being overlooked by regulators who failed to understand how the sector worked, to complaints that EU sanctions prevented many owners from participating in the high-profit shipment of Russian oil.

“We’re just the lorry drivers,” according to Procopiou, who said sailing at slower speed was his long-touted argument to lowering emissions from shipping.

Martinos said the ETS tax would evolve into a two-tier market as some shipowners bypassed Europe, but that this provided opportunities for those who were organised.

“We have common interest to reduce the emissions because reducing emissions means less bunkers,” said Procopiou. 

“Methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, but this is for the next, next generation, maybe my granddaughter’s, because now LNG is available the last 50 years and still the distribution system is not available.”

He said the European Union was “more interested in how we name parts of our body” than maintaining its eminent world position, which was now threatened by China, which surpassed Greece earlier this year as the biggest shipowner.

This is the second year when Procopiou has taken the stage to air his populist views on decarbonisation.

Last year, he told the audience that future fuels were fiction, and would not be seen in his life or his son’s life. This year, he calculated that each tonne shipped by sea resulted in emissions of less than 40g of carbon dioxide.

Regulating to lower this to a figure such as 35g per tonne was “a complete waste of effort” he said.

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