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Greek shipowners say maritime policy makers must do better

Reflecting on a ‘challenging’ past year, Union of Greek Shipowners president Theodore Veniamis says the industry needs stability to compete fairly and meet environmental requirements, yet is about to embark on a new era without even basic assurances

Climate change agenda singled out for biggest criticism by Greek shipowners in annual report. UGS says the political pressure being exerted by climate lobbyists is disproportionate in comparison with the environmental footprint of the shipping industry

GREEK shipowners have challenged maritime legislators to up their game to produce the stable environment global shipping requires to sustain business and meet new environmental standards.

Reflecting on a challenging 12-month period for shipping, Union of Greek Shipowners president Theodore Veniamis said that the industry needed “a stable, level playing field internationally” in terms of both commercial competition and environmental regulations.

Introducing the UGS 2018-2019 annual report, that circulated on Tuesday, Mr Veniamis said that shipping had been confronted with trade wars and increasing protectionist tendencies, limited sources of ship financing, and — above all — “great political pressure on the environmental performance of ships”.

The political pressure had been “disproportionate, in fact, in comparison to the environmental footprint of the industry”.

According to Mr Veniamis, “the aim should be the achievement of better regulation and this is a prime and major challenge for maritime policy makers”.

As well as being the world’s largest national shipowners’ association, the UGS is traditionally among the strongest supporters of the International Maritime Organization and the Greek view that the industry deserves better regulation will resonate all the more in coming from a staunch backer.

“Although 2020 is very close, the international shipping industry and international trade are entering a new era without any assurance that safe compliant fuels will be available in the required quantities worldwide,” said Mr Veniamis.

“It is encouraging, at least, that commercial interests have not over-ridden the urgent and genuine concerns about the safety and liability issues related to 0.5% sulphur marine fuels and that the UN IMO has finally fully recognised that the responsibility for providing safe compliant fuels lies with the bunker fuel supply chain,” he added.

The UGS was among the first to highlight challenges in applying the global 0.5% sulphur limit on marine fuels as well as special issues pertaining to providing the new fuels to the bulk and tramp shipping sectors.

Mr Veniamis pledged that the UGS “will continue to constructively contribute to the important ongoing work at the IMO and elsewhere.”

According to the UGS, in dwt terms Greek shipping now accounts for 53% of the EU fleet and about 21% of the world fleet.

At a national level, said the UGS president, shipping continued to be recognised as a national asset, above political party differences.

“Maintaining its close ties with the country remains a common goal of both the state and shipowners,” he said. “The prerequisite is that it must continue to be internationally competitive and therefore sustainable.”

Greek owners wanted to enhance Greece’s position as an international maritime hub to boost the value of the sector for the economy.

Last year, Greece’s receipts from maritime transport increased by about 14.9% to an estimated E 16.6bn but the industry’s contribution went beyond the numbers in the balance of payments, the UGS said, citing indirect investments, employment and enhancing Greece’s profile as a strategic trade partner.

Mr Veniamis said that revitalising Greek seamanship was another priority, in order to retain national maritime capability and make the maritime profession “a substantial vehicle for employment for the youth of our country.”

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