ECONOMY

Shipping sector readies for new EU strategy

Representatives of European shipowners’ organizations and the European Commission will launch deliberations in coming months to thrash out a Green Code which will set a strategy for the industry. Greek shipowners, with the biggest fleet in Europe, and their European peers hope that this initiative will improve both the competitiveness and the image of the industry on the continent. Members of the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) recently had the opportunity to present to EU officials in Brussels their positions on the issue. «We take the view that European Union initiatives to date have been in the opposite direction of improving the conditions for shipping, being essentially focused on measures designed to protect the environment from the shipping activity, without any concern for the industry itself,» a EEE source said. Image hit In its annual report, EEE notes that the image of the industry in the EU has suffered greatly in the last five years, and unfavorable legislation has been drafted following the accidents of the tankers Erika and Prestige, and the ecological disaster caused by the Spanish authorities’ handling of the latter. These two incidents, the report says, gave rise to the adoption of measures by the EU that diverge from the international legal framework for the industry. These measures expedited the withdrawal of single-hulled tankers – earlier than envisaged in the timetable of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – and introduced penal clauses for accidental pollution of the sea, in digression of the international Marpol convention. The EEE report warns that an important repercussion of these measures will be to discourage shipowners from investing in new vessels and young people from entering the profession. Further, they will not be effective in preventing maritime accidents and pollution. Counterproposals «The building of more suitable ships, the introduction of specific regimes for refuge areas and proper crisis management in cases of accidents, as well as the creation of adequate reception installations would be much more effective measures,» EEE members tell Kathimerini. The same sources argue that «such unilateral decisions are not in line with statements and promises by European officials referring to the need for making Europe a pole of attraction for investment, or to promises that all measures will be adopted after an assessment of their impact on EU competitiveness.» EEE members further argue that sustainable development is based on three axes – competitiveness, environment and employment – but that without development we can neither protect the environment nor create jobs. They further stress that without European ship officers, maritime activities will be transferred to other regions of the world that have more favorable business conditions. «The European Union, compared to the US and China, lags in competitiveness and economic growth, not in environmental and social protection… Unfortunately, Europe is excessively punitive of shipping entrepreneurs, who are among the traditionally most successful in the world. European politicians must restore the balance among the three axes of sustainable development, which has been seriously upset in the case of sea transport,» an EEE official argues. EEE is in full agreement with IMO’s secretary general Efthymios Mitropoulos, who has urged lawmakers to evaluate the sustainable development of shipping on the basis of its contribution to the global economy, rather than any damage it may cause. «Sea transport has long been the most economical method of transporting goods in a way that is safe, efficient and friendly to the environment. It maintains a whole range of activities, creating employment at sea and on-shore… Let such views be taken seriously into account by the specially set up group of European commissioners who will formulate the EU’s future shipping policy,» the EEE members add.