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Trade Challenges Ahead for the Shipping Industry

Brexit, IMO 2020 and the Coronavirus are plaguing the shipping industry of late and ECSA (European Community Shipowners’ Associations) is working round the clock in order to offer solutions to its members and advocate the industry’s contribution towards the European economy. In an exclusive interview with Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com), Mr. Claes Berglund, President of ECSA, commented on the various open “fronts” that the shipping industry is having to deal with these days.

ECSA is expected to have a prominent seat as well at the upcoming European Shipping Week 2020, where Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide is also among the Media Sponsors. European Shipping Week is a platform where EU policy-makers can meet and engage with European shipowners and other stakeholders from the maritime sector. The focus is on shipping, in all its different aspects, including the participation of sectors linked to the shipping industry.

The first three days of the week each have a specific theme and all events on that day will be addressing related issues.

Monday, 17 February 2020 – Trade and competitiveness
Tuesday, 18 February 2020 – Safe and social shipping
Wednesday, 19 February 2020 – Shipping and the environment
Thursday, 20 February 2020 – Flagship Conference and Gala Dinner

European Shipping Week is the brainchild of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and is a unique opportunity to meet the heads of the world’s leading shipping companies in the heart of Europe.

Mr. Claes Berglund, President of ECSA

How difficult do you expect to be the transition to a UK-EU trade relationship in the post-Brexit era?

The trade between the UK and the EU is massive and it‘s easy to underestimate how big consequences even a small change could trigger. It will be very difficult to finalise everything in time but I really hope that the negotiations will be successful.

Which are the main concerns and challenges which the ECSA expects to arise and have to be dealt with?

The challenge will be that we will have a very short time to prepare for a trade according to the agreement. We can expect changes in type of reporting which requires new IT system that are not in place to give an example. New type of checks could result in need of physical changes in the ports – all this takes time.

Moving on to the ever-so important issue of shipping’s contribution to a healthier environment, a recent study indicated that the industry would have to contribute billions of dollars towards decarbonization. How will this be feasible? 

The shipping industry is committed to the goals set by the IMO and realises that it will not materialise without big efforts and sacrifices. The ships are a part of a wider maritime cluster and all has to do their part to get the transition done in time. Shipping is a very competitive industry and the end consumer is the ultimate payer of our services. This will not change.

Since the start of 2020, shipping has transitioned to low-sulphur fuels, however there are issues of quality and of compliance. Where does ECSA stand on the matter? 

ECSA follows the matter closely and for sure there are initial problems. We must put it in perspective. From one day to another the world’s 50.000 ships require a different fuel, it’s a huge challenge and cannot be done without problems. The bunker suppliers in general has done a fantastic job but here and there we encounter issues with availability and quality. Hopefully these problems will be reduced quickly and we will find a new normal in terms of availability, quality and prices.

With the Coronavirus stealing the headlines of late and the grave disruptions it has caused in global trade, are you concerned about the long-term effect on the shipping industry? 

This is not the first time and unfortunately not the last time we have these type of issues. History tells us that we learn and move on. I expect this to happen in this case as well. At this time it’s very hard to know if there will be any long term consequences.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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