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Fafalios: “If Only We Knew Which Fuel, We Will Be Using Over The Next 20-30 Years”

The GSCC welcomes the New Year with its traditional Vassilopitta reception.

Following is the speech of Mr. Haralambos Fafalios, Chairman of the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee

“Dear all,

It is three years since we were together in London celebrating our New Year Vassilopitta cutting.

It seems a very long time with the word’s pandemic, war and inflation suddenly entering our daily vocabulary.

Since last year Ukraine has become a war zone and the effects of this conflict have been more far reaching than we would have ever imagined.

All of a sudden, commodity prices rose briskly, supply routes changed and trade patterns have altered to a degree that we would not have envisaged.

The result has been positive for some sectors of shipping and negative for others. If we look at dry commodities Ukraine was mostly a very short haul exporter therefore replacing their grain and coal exports has had a very beneficial effect on tonne miles. The resulting sanctions on Russian exports such as oil and gas have also been very positive for the tanker and gas carrier markets.

However, we should never forget the sad consequences for the citizens of Ukraine who are living through this unnecessary conflict with great loss of life, unspeakable hardship and dire economic consequences for both warring parties. Let us hope that lessons are learnt by other authoritarian regimes who may have expansionist ideas.

The risk to seafarers lives so far has been negligible but who knows how that might change?

Despite higher interest rates the American economy is proving more resilient than expected, whilst the far east is also rebuilding itself post covid to its pre pandemic levels. China alone is a wild card with a significant covid outbreak and an economy with a lot significant amount of debt and great overseas ambitions.

Europe is still trying to recover economically from energy shortage due to sanctions and inflation yet still has a not very positive business attitude.

The United Kingdom has still to decide whether it wants to be a great trading nation again or wallow in a post E.U. malaise. And all the above are having to deal with a new word which has not been prevalent for a long time, namely inflation

Inflation, which up to now economists’ thought was an easy way to wipe out national debt is now proving a more obstinate problem with higher commodity costs and wage levels.

World shipping has to navigate in this global environment whilst at the same time trying to reduce its carbon footprint appreciably.

It must never be forgotten that shipping has always made a virtue of creating ever more energy efficient ships and reducing its fuel footprint per tonne of cargo carried.

The issue of what future propulsion method will be adopted or what fuel is chosen, is still anything but settled as an issue.

Many companies, whether they are shipping companies or commodity traders are touting the strengths of their favourite fuels but none so far have a real green footprint on a well to wake basis.

We are still awaiting engine and ship builders to come up with real green solutions.

It is not enough for regulators, be they I.M.O. or the E.U. to create a fiscal disadvantage for shipping, if they cannot come up with real solutions. However, it is very important to stress that we support the IMO exclusively and not the many regional markets because we need global solutions and not regional efforts. Otherwise, we will never succeed in truly decarbonizing shipping as opposed to filling up coffers.

Hand in hand with the above, we need a simple incentive such as a fuel levy as a medium-term measure until safe alternative fuels become available in the long term. In the short term, we must be patient and realise the real benefits of EEXI. The operational index, CII, another short-term measure in the IMO roadmap seems to have no respect from either charterers or shipowners. World shipping is too complex to try and use rather simplistic measures for vessels fuel efficiency.

Looking back over the last 12 months, the fates of various shipping sectors have almost been a rollercoaster ride. The container market, which saw the highest freight rates ever last year, is now languishing at levels which are 80-90 percent below their peaks and with a disturbingly large order book. The tanker market rose from the doldrums and even now various sectors are performing very well. The LNG / LPG markets also have seen some historically high freight rates and the order book has risen to very high levels. The car carrier sector has also risen from its pandemic level lows and is rewarding its owners well at the moment. The dry bulk market, which started 2022 strongly is now at rather disappointing levels and it is uncertain as to what may bring about a turnaround. Its fleet is the largest on record and the orderbook although historically low is certainly not negligible.

Against this background, the Greek controlled merchant fleet, amongst the largest in the world, is getting younger by the year due to judicious second-hand sales and a substantial orderbook of low carbon high technology newbuildings in all sectors. This fleet renewal and expansion would probably be more robust if only we knew which fuel, we will be using over the next 20-30 years.

Apart from everything else, none of these alternative green, zero or low carbon fuels yet have a global bunkering or cost infrastructure to support the world fleet.

As importantly as ever we must consider the human element and the welfare of our crews with all that is going on. Ammonia for example is at present a very dangerous fuel and not enough safety measures have been put into place to make it a realistic option.

With covid subsiding to a degree, one would have thought that most nations would permit the easy repatriation of crews from around the world. This has not yet occurred and governments are not treating seafarers with the respect they deserve.

The Greek Shipping Coopetition Committee is very privileged to be based here and through our contacts in London and globally, is able to play a significant role in demonstrating the importance of the Greek shipping industry and how vital it is in making world trade and its transportation needs seamless.

Being here in London, we hope that the U.K. will make greater efforts to welcome the shipping industry to its shores. London has all the know-how but an ever-smaller number of shipping companies making their base here. We look forward to LISW 2023 but much more is required if the U.K. wishes to remain one of the great global maritime centres.

As far as Greece is concerned, we still urge the government to improve the maritime education system and allow more private education establishments. If bureaucracy is greatly reduced, the Greek flag itself will benefit.

The Hellenic Coast Guard must remain one of the backbones of the Greek maritime system and keep its many foreign outposts.

We still feel that Greece should have a greater voice in E.U. maritime affairs and greater representation at the I.M.O.

I cannot overstress the gratitude that is felt towards all the people who serve on board and ashore and make Greek and world shipping look so efficient and well run.

Through conflicts, pandemics, bad weather and difficult circumstances, the men and women who are part the shipping industry are the unsung heroes that make world trade possible and so positively impact our way of life. Our seafarers are key workers, similar, say, to hospital staff or other vital services. Governments should enshrine this status with deeds and not only with words!

Finally, I would like to thank my G.S.C.C. colleagues for their dedication and hard work and in particular to Kostas Amarantidis and his team for running this organization so smoothly in these difficult times.
Thank you
Source: Greek Shipping Coopetition Committee

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