Changing times but how will shipping be affected?

Exactly what was behind the EU’s decision to leave shipping out of its emission trading system for the time being and until 2023 leave it to the IMO to deliver on CO2 emission reductions, is not clear.

For some it is seen as a pragmatic approach given that EU pressure on the IMO has already had some effect but for others it is a prelude to piling on more pressure when – if as they deem likely – the IMO is unable to bring other nations on board.

For the shipping industry it is generally being seen as a positive development that has taken some of the pressure off at a time when there is already the ballast treatment and 2020 sulphur caps to resolve.

It will be some time before the EU’s real intentions are clarified but there is a high possibility that when the time does come around, the EU will be a very different organisation than it currently is.

Across Europe, the political landscape in many of the member nations is being transformed and there is an accelerating trend towards ‘Euroscepticism’. First manifested in the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Dutch and French elections seemed to indicate a reverse but while parties committed to the EU did win those elections, there were significant gains by other parties less enamoured of the EU project.

Since then, Germany’s election has resulted in a parliament that has not as yet several weeks later been able to form a working government. That may change in the coming days but it is very likely that what (if any) government does emerge will be far less stable and less committed to some EU policies than previously. One of the apparent sticking points was the impasse over energy and environmental policy between the two smaller parties in the proposed coalition.

Then the Austrian and Czech elections saw parties committed to the EU suffer spectacular defeats with Eurosceptic parties gaining the upper hand. Next year there will be elections in several EU member states including Italy, Sweden and Hungary and current polls show similar events likely to happen.

The changing mood in Europe will have an effect upon the future direction of the EU and a likely change in emphasis on policies. Among the changes sought after is less centralisation and freedom for individual member states to determine their own priorities. That could very likely change the way regulation of shipping is perceived and the economics rather than environmental performance seen as being of the highest priority.

In all respects shipping has always been hostage to political events and this will never change. What will be interesting to see is how the now obviously changing world order will alter the direction of the last decade or two by 2020 when the UK will be outside of the EU and President Trump seeking re-election.