Interferry has joined other co-organisers in praising last week’s inaugural European Shipping Week (ESW) in Brussels – and is now urging the industry and regulators to build on the initiative’s success by continuing to develop closer cooperation.
Hailing the high attendance and constructive discussions at more than 40 events, the trade association’s regulatory affairs director Johan Roos noted: “What struck me most is how all of the shipping representatives and European Union decision makers seemed to be on the same page when we were able to get together like this for the first time.
“Interferry is often critical of the EU’s approach to shipping regulations, where new requirements are consistently piled on top of the industry and only rarely with any meaningful preceding dialogue. The week clearly revealed the value of what we lack at present – a proper setting for discussing issues before they emerge in the regulatory process.”
Mr Roos said a welcome move in this direction came in 2013 when the European Sustainable Shipping Forum was formed – largely to address industry concerns on the sulphur emissions directive imposed in January 2015.
“EU member states, the European Commission and the industry regularly share views and experiences within this forum, ” he points out. “Interferry regards this as a very successful first step towards a deepened relationship. European Shipping Week has further demonstrated the benefits of politicians, officials and shipping leaders coming together to create a more harmonious regulatory culture where all sides can consult on what we wish to achieve and how to best do it.”
The event was conceived by the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and organised by a steering group which, together with Interferry, also included the EU transport authority DG MOVE, Cruise Lines International Association Europe and the European ship brokers & agents, dredging and tug owners associations.
Mr Roos paid tribute to ECSA secretary general Patrick Verhoeven and his team for their ‘drive and ingenuity’ and added that Interferry was looking forward to a repeat – but suggested it should not be before 2017 ‘so that we have a chance to establish new, pro-active working formats with the EU institutions’.
The debut ESW attracted active participation from numerous major European legislators and administrators. They included vice-president Rainer Wieland and key members of the European Parliament; João Aguiar Machado, director general of DG MOVE; and EC transport commissioner Violetaa Bulc, who featured the short sea sector in her overview of European shipping.
Among the wide-ranging activities, Interferry arranged for a coach load of EU and industry delegates to visit the DFDS ro-ro vesselPrimula in Ghent. The main aim was to inspect the massive 250-tonne scrubber unit – located at a challenging height of 40 metres – and ancillary systems that have been installed to meet the stringent new sulphur emissions limits that now apply in Europe and North America.
“We were glad to give officials a real-life experience of what the scrubbing option entails, ” said Mr Roos. “They may never have had a previous opportunity to appreciate the vast scale of a modern ro-ro ferry and to thoroughly understand the huge amount of engineering that goes into retrofitting this equipment into a ship. Hopefully the visit will have helped to demonstrate that future regulations must be based on first-hand knowledge and the fullest possible consultation.”