The sector’s plans to reduce CO2 emissions, piracy and the conditions of seafarers were at the centre of the Industry Challenges and the Roadmap Ahead webinar.

The seminar, whose panellist were chairpersons from the industry’s main associations, revolved around what these associations need to address the geopolitical and economic challenges that affect shipping today.


Governments need to recognise the importance of shipping and seafarers and designate them as key workers

Described by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres as a “humanitarian and safety crisis”, the conditions faced by seafarers is one of the main problems the shipping industry faces today.

Due to the coronavirus-related restrictions on travelling, hundreds of thousands of seafarers have been stranded at sea for months, unable to disembark. Regulations on the maximum time at sea have also been ignored because of the pandemic.

International industry organisations, including the IMO, are campaigning for governments to designate seafarers as key workers, allowing them to go back home.

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“Just like other key workers, seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need and deserve quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during the pandemic, but at all times,” commented IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim.

According to Dimitri Fafalios, the president of the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners INTERCARGO, which representing 250,000 seafarers working in the dry bulk sector, action is already late.

“These ships deliver must-have commodities to the largest distribution of ports, anchorages and terminals worldwide. Some might say action is needed today, I would be more emphatic and say that action was needed yesterday,” he explained.

For international shipowner association BIMCO president Sadan Kaptanoglu, the industry needs to lobby with local governments to pressure them into taking action.

“They have to understand that their domestic systems run smoothly because shipping exists and shipping should run safely. Without our seafarers, we cannot do that,” she said.

According to Paolo d’Amico, chairman of tanker association INTERTANKO, the main problem is that shipping is a very overlooked industry.

“People take for granted that all the goods we are receiving in our normal lives arrive by sea. I agree with Sadan regarding our need to lobby but our house is IMO, as it’s the only place that can represent us on a worldwide basis,” he said.


Piracy will not disappear without the help of the nations involved

According to data from the IMO, in 2019 there were 162 pirate attacks affecting ships, the lowest number in a decade. Data also showed that, during 2019, 21 seafarers were kidnapped as nine hand-robberies took place and 37 attacks failed.

The Gulf of Guinea and East Africa, and countries such as Nigeria and Somalia, in particular, are the most hit regions.

INTERTANKO’s chairman Paolo d’Amico, though, believes things are slightly improving.

“We are seeing a reaction from Nigeria and we really hope that this reaction is not just political but they are actually starting to build assets to fight these criminals,” he said.

“When there are countries that can respond with their own forces, we must tell them to so while remaining vigilant.”

According to BIMCO president Sadan Kaptanoglu, the important is for the countries involved to actively participate in efforts to contrast piracy.

“Our representatives joined the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in a meeting last week and they have every intention to follow the plans,” she commented.

“Nigeria holds the key to the solution of this problem, and without their full commitment, this problem cannot be solved.”


 The road towards carbon neutrality will rely on a multitude of different fuels

As regards long-term challenges, panellists agreed that the biggest one would be to reduce greenhouse gases.

The IMO’s aspiration to reduce 70% of CO2 emissions by 2050 will not be easy,  the panellists said, but it will be necessary if the industry wants to remain competitive and adhere to climate goals.

According to International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) chairman Esben Poulsson, the ICS has already set up a research and development (R&D) fund to show the industry’s proactive behaviour in regards to cutting down greenhouse gases.

Shipowners are also trying to find short-term solutions to reduce their carbon footprint by taking advantage of new technologies, in order to have a competitive advantage in the sector.

BIMCO’s members are fully committed to respecting the IMO’s targets, as they believe that there is no alternative other than green shipping.

BIMCO president Sadan Kaptanoglu believes that there will not be one solution to fit all types of vessels, but different companies will need to rely on different solutions.

“It is clear there won’t be one solution, but there will be multiple solutions. So it’s really important for us to keep ourselves in this green shipping track and that’s what we are doing,” she added.

INTERCARGO’s president Dimitri Fafalios thinks that fuels will become more sector-specific. “There will be people following LNG and there will be people following methanol, ammonia and hydrogen – it will become more sector-specific.”

Fafalios also highlighted that shipyards have been dictating the technology and specification of vessels for the last 20-30 years, making hard for shipping companies to push for energy-saving devices.

“Depending on how the market is, shipyards can say they want to build the ship in a series and they have other companies which will accept the vessels as they are, so it’s really difficult to push the technology envelope to the limit,” he said.