Time for a change?
A date has now been set, and on 24 June the world will know if the British people have turned their back on the EU or committed to remain as one of the 28 members. It is no exaggeration to say that the decision, whichever way it goes, could well have a major impact on future shipping regulation and operation. European regulators have not been the best of friends to shipping and have often jumped the gun imposing their will on our industry without proper consideration of the consequences and in so doing undermining the efforts of those who feel that the IMO is the only appropriate body for drafting rules for shipping. To its credit the EU has funded some maritime research and without funds projects like HERCULES may never have got off the ground. But the positive actions have all too often been offset by discriminatory measures for example the Sulphur directives, MVR of emissions, and most recently directive on ship recycling. For its part the UK has tended to follow the EU example to the letter except perhaps in the matter of ballast where it has yet to ratify the convention. Outside of the EU if the British people determine to regain control of their country’s destiny, the UK government may not feel so compelled to continue piling on the pressure on British operators who may then gain a competitive edge over their neighbours. Of course it is equally possible that the EU may decide that UK-flagged ships should then have some of the privileges they have enjoyed removed. There is also the very real possibility that a UK exit could trigger more departures and so weaken the influence the EU has gained in international fora as its membership drops. If that happens then EU funding for NGOs might dry up, states that see a need to support their domestic industries will not be prevented from doing so and liner operators might even decide to revive the conference system. Doubtless over the next four months a lot will be said and written about possible future scenarios which will at least make a change from all the talk being centred on oil prices and over-capacity.