The shipping community has to shoulder the blame for the situation it now finds itself in as it faces the challenges of climate change, because, according to three prominent Greek shipowners, the shipowning community is so fragmented its voice is no longer being heard either inside the International Maritime Organization or outside it.
Shipping needs one voice and it is up to shipowners to give it that voice, the Greener Shipping Summit held in Athens last week was repeatedly told. Meeting the United Nations sustainable development goals is becoming ever more challenging for the shipping industry despite the great advances being made in technology today.
“The shipowner is taking the blame for what is being produced by the engine builder, the shipbuilder and the fuel suppliers,” George Tsavliris, principal at Tsavliris Salvage Group, told the summit panel discussing shipping and the IMO in the next decades.
He said the shipowner buys what’s available and has become the scapegoat, adding that an unfair balance has developed on environmental issues and it’s up to the shipping community to stand behind the IMO and win back control of the industry.
Harry Vafias declared the IMO is not the “actual power in shipping” as the US, European Union and China have their own power and have unfortunately pushed the IMO aside. The president and CEO of StealthGas also stressed the importance of the lobbying, saying the industry has 10 or 15 different organizations, “which divides our power and limits our ability to influence decisions,” unlike the automotive industry and airlines which have joined forces to push their requests.
Stamatis Tsantanis, chairman and CEO of Seanergy Maritime, agreed “100% that the industry is too fragmented, with various groups having conflicting interests.” He said, “Shipping needs one voice.” Tsantanis added that the underlying goal is to improve the environment and the “goal should be what is of benefit to the environment, not who is going to pay the bill.”
Vafias and Tsavliris called for a conference of major shipping bodies to produce a united voice to put pressure on the industry’s designers and builders, “even if decisions must come down to a vote.” Tsavliris proposed direct meetings with politicians to present their case, since “most politicians are ignorant about our industry.”