The maritime industry needs to proactive, not reactive to issues facing it and should see new challenges as opportunities and not as threats, according to Dimitrios Theologitis, head of unit, Maritime Transport & Ports Policy at the European Commission.
Speaking at the Ship Management International 2nd International Ship Management Summit in Limassol, Cyprus, Mr Theologitis said for this to happen “requires an exercise of collective responsibility from all involved actors, not only from ship owners. Flag and coastal states, cargo owners and ship management companies, among others, play a very important role in shaping the image of the overall shipping activity.”
Shipping is entering into a new era where new forms of logistics, shifting patterns of maritime trade, advanced technologies and growing environmental concerns will change the face of the business as we know it today, delegates were told.
“There is an enormous potential for European shipping, both in the deep-sea and short-sea trades. The removal of obstacles and simplification of controls in European ports for ships transporting internal market goods under a ‘European maritime space without barriers’ will be an important step forward,” he said.
However, this will not be enough. Competitive pressure from shipping nations close to the Pacific and Indian Oceans will continue to increase, Mr Theologitis added.
“As Europeans, we need to consider carefully all challenges and shipping scenarios in order to take the right strategic decisions for securing the future for our industries.
“We all have an interest in ensuring that Europe retains its shipping excellence and maritime know-how.
“It is for that very reason that, in the framework of the integrated maritime policy of the European Union, the Commission is carrying a strategic review of its maritime transport policy, examining opportunities and threats for European shipping in the coming ten years. Included there will be three main points of focus: the competitiveness of European shipping in a globalised environment, the human factor – which in part is the subject of today’s conference – and the question of quality shipping, meaning safe, secure and environmentally responsible shipping.
“We expect to present our views next October, by means of a policy Communication to be addressed to the European Parliament and Council,” he said.
Pointing to the issue of the shortage of qualified seafarers as an area of less success within the industry, he told delegates that the European Commission has been working for years to improve the health and safety conditions on board vessels.
“We make constant efforts on the training and certification requirements of seafarers. We have a long-standing commitment to support adequate labour conditions in the maritime world. We have been also been instrumental to bringing into reality the consolidated convention on maritime labour of the ILO, and we actively support the social partners towards achieving an agreement for the practical implementation of these rules in European shipping.
“These are practical, concrete actions of our daily work in support of seafarers. It is certainly curious that all those efforts of the European Commission are rarely presented or commented on in shipping conferences.
“Therefore, claims that the application of the principle of environmental responsibility to the shipping sector criminalises the sector gives a very bad image of shipping, as it suggests that violations of the environmental regulations are a normal practice in the shipping sector. Furthermore, the claim is not factual,” he said.