Pushing the message

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

10 January 2016

Early in January the BIMCO website new section included an opinion piece by ‘Watchkeeper’ which discussed shipping’s public image. In the piece its author said:
If the industry is not to come off badly in the way the general population view shipping, it needs to up its game in countering the propaganda of the climate activists. There is often not enough done to rebut outrageous claims that the industry remains a major polluter and that there has been little effort to reduce harmful emissions and other environmental spoliation. When some activist gets up in Paris and holds forth about the industry being a “fossil” or when ill informed politicians suggest that ships are little more than “waste incinerators”, these collect the headlines. The industry’s substantial progress needs to generate more headlines of its own. There needs to be more clear and simple comparisons of past and present shipping, showing the direction of travel towards a cleaner, greener and more sustainable marine transport, that remains so vital to modern life right across the world. Otherwise the only message that the public ever receives is that growth in marine transport brings with it the inevitability of greater harm to the environment. There needs to be more said about the improved efficiency of modern ships and shipping along with the efforts that are being made on both the technical and commercial fronts to reduce environmental impact. The arrival of new and advanced tonnage, exciting developments in machinery and fuel all need to be loudly announced.
There are few within the industry that would argue against such sentiments but getting the message out is the hardest part. Shipping usually only hits the headlines when bad things such as a tanker grounding or a cruise ship sinks happen or very occasionally when one of the new giant box ships visits a port for the first time and local media report the event. But all within shipping can and should promote its virtues at every opportunity. We can remind our friends and families about the benefits of ships pointing out that the food on our tables, the clothes we wear, our electronic gadgets and our childrens’ toys all arrived in a ship. We can say the same about the fuel for our cars and transport and the cars themselves all originated elsewhere in the globe. We can quote some of those interesting facts such as a Triple-E container ship has an engine power of 64MW which is the same as 1230 Smart Cars (52kW each) but we doubt we will ever see a Smart car hauling 14 containers. We could point out that the ship will be producing 42g of CO2 per km for those 14boxes while the Smart car with just a driver will produce between 93 and 99g of CO2 per km. And when our friends counter that they are driving an electric car with zero emissions we will be justified in asking them what the power station was running on and what its emissions are. We might occasionally be out-argued when our Norwegian friends gleefully tell you that all their electricity comes from hydro power; but we could – if feeling suitably Machiavellian – counter with asking why if Norway is self-sufficient does it export its polluting oil and gas and its government profit from such activities. We are all ambassadors for shipping and we should all be carrying the message to as wide an audience as possible. Perhaps it would be a good resolution for 2016 to do so at every opportunity.