Where should the axe fall?

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

15 April 2016


Ahead of next week’s MEPC, a lot of organisations are setting out their stalls on a variety of matters. Ballast treatment will feature high on the agenda with the status of the IMO convention now standing at 49 countries and 34.79% of the world fleet – as predicted earlier this month by ShipInsight the new deliveries and scrapping activity in March actually reduced the figure from the 34.82% previously announced by the IMO. There is little evidence so far of Panama or any other country coming forward to add their signature during the week so it is likely that the Convention will remain in limbo for a while longer. Also occupying minds has been the matter of CO2 emissions. After shipping was not specifically mentioned in the COP 21 Paris agreement, some European nations and organisations surprisingly expressed their disappointment. This week ECSA issued a statement in which its President Niels Smedegaard said “The shipping industry endorses the Paris agreement on climate change and we are committed to ambitious CO2 emission reductions across the world merchant fleet. With the shipping industry’s support, Member States of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will be able to develop meaningful CO2 reduction commitments for the international shipping sector as a whole that are both ambitious and realistic.” There are a great many shipowners around the globe who will take a contrary position. While the EU might decide to take independent action it is highly doubtful that many other nations will except perhaps in retaliation to an EU move. Talking of reduction commitments is all very well but it makes the industry hostage to fortune and in the event that the commitments cannot be met what can the response be to any individual or organisation that demands the commitment be honoured? Will those in favour of the reduction voluntarily agree to cease operations if an annual figure is in danger of being exceeded? Some lessons need to be learned from what is happening in the US where ExxonMobil has felt obliged to protect itself from dubious legal actions brought by environmental activists. No less than four attorneys general are investigating the oil major’s public statements and alleged scientific knowledge concerning climate change over the years. ExxonMobil has filed court papers in Texas seeking to block a subpoena issued by one of the four, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, arguing that the subpoena “is an unwarranted fishing expedition into Exxon’s internal records that violates its constitutional rights”. Exxon also dismisses the notion that there is any suggestion of a crime, saying Attorney General Claude Earl Walker “issued the subpoena without the reasonable suspicion required by law and based on an ulterior motive to silence those who express views on climate change with which they disagree.” Shipping needs to concentrate on selling the message of its indispensability to the world delivering the goods and raw materials needed by modern society rather than giving in to the demands of those that would rather see humanity condemned to a subsistence living standard.