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European Shipowners need certainty, says ECSA’s Secretary General

IMO’s recent sulphur cap decision is a positive step as the ship owning community across Europe needs certainty, claims Dr. Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), in an exclusive interview with Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com), ahead of the European Shipping Week, due to take place in Brussels during the period from 27th of February and until the 3rd of March. Still though, “we have to ensure that there is quality fuel available everywhere in the world and that adequate enforcement measures are in place to ensure a global level playing field”, said Dr. Verhoeven.

Do you think that the latest IMO decision to place a cap on sulphur use is a landmark one for the shipping industry and one of the most important of the past few decades?

It is an important decision and it shows the global leadership of IMO when it comes to regulating the environmental performance of shipping.

Which have been the first reactions from the European Shipowners’ Associations?

It is good news that IMO took this decision as shipowners need certainty. Year 2020 is tomorrow however, so we have to speed up work on implementation. In particular, we have to ensure that there is quality fuel available everywhere in the world and that adequate enforcement measures are in place to ensure a global level playing field.

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With the occasion of the upcoming European Shipping Week of 2017, which will be the main themes and how important is this event?

The upcoming edition of European Shipping Week coincides with the Maritime Year of the European Commission. Our main focus will therefore be on the review of EU shipping policy, covering topical issues such as decarbonisation, digitalisation and simplification, international trade developments, maritime careers and the European business climate for shipping. European Shipping Week is unique in its kind as it is the only shipping event that focuses on EU policy-making and regulation.

Over the course of the past few months, the European Union has launched a series of investigations towards various aspects of the shipping taxation regimes in countries like Malta and Greece. Do you think that these moves are perhaps in direct contrast to the notion that the EU is working towards boosting the competitiveness of the European shipping industry, quite the opposite?

It is difficult to comment on these cases as long as the investigations are ongoing. We understand that the main objective of the Commission is to ensure consistency and level playing field. We however do think that the Commission should be aware of what is going on elsewhere in the world and strive for the competitiveness of the shipping industry. This is why we have commissioned a study from Deloitte on the global competitiveness of shipping centres. This study compares the business framework we have in the EU with that of five international shipping centres, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai and Hong Kong. The results of this study will be presented at the Flagship Conference of European Shipping Week.

During the past couple of years and with the occasion of the Brexit, there’s been a lot of talk about the relocation of Greek and European shipping companies towards other shipping centers, like Luxembourg, Singapore, Dubai, even Canada (Vancouver), which have launched such “luring” campaigns. Is there ground for valid concern?

I do believe so. Perhaps we don’t see a massive exodus yet, but there is definitely a gradual erosion process ongoing already, due to fierce competition from outside Europe. Reason the more we need to make EU policy-makers aware of this and recommend measures to improve the policy framework we have.

One of the most notable initiatives of the EU in the shipping segment has been the MRV regulation on the monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions. How streamlined will this process be, given that the methods to monitor and measure emissions are various?

The IMO has adopted a global data collection system in October. It is now essential that the European Commission reviews its MRV Regulation, in order to align it with the global system. Shipping companies all over the world must have one reporting system.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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