The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the principal global trade association for merchant ship operators, held its Annual General Meeting in Rotterdam last week, at the kind invitation of the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners.
The membership of ICS, which comprises national associations from 37 countries (including the newly admitted Russian Chamber of Shipping), reviewed a great number of important regulatory and policy developments affecting global maritime trade.
These included many of the issues set out in the 2015 ICS Annual Review published in conjunction with the AGM.
In particular, ICS members focused on the following critical issues:
Migrant Rescue at Sea Crisis
ICS members welcomed recent efforts by EU Member States to increase Search and Rescue resources for migrants in distress in the Mediterranean, and the subsequent decrease in the numbers of lives lost. However, ICS members agreed that the current level of state-backed Search and Rescue resources available to address the on-going crisis is still woefully insufficient and urgently needs to be dramatically increased.
Speaking after the meeting, ICS Chairman, Masamichi Morooka, said: “It is simply not acceptable that merchant ships are still being routinely called upon by Rescue Co-ordination Centres to assist with the majority of rescue operations currently taking place, having already assisted with the rescue of more than 50,000 people since the crisis started to escalate last year.
“Apart from the fact that commercial ships are wholly unsuitable for rescuing hundreds of people at a time, the Search and Rescue obligations that exist under international law were never created with the current situation in mind.”
ICS members agreed that governments must urgently find a solution to the crisis. In the meantime, while it continues to be necessary for the international community to rescue tens of thousands of people, state-backed Search and Rescue resources must be increased immediately.
“It is unreasonable for governments to continue relying on merchant ships as a long term solution, placing civilian merchant seafarers at considerable risk. The current situation is neither sustainable nor tenable,” said Mr Morooka.
United States Ballast Water Problem
ICS members welcomed the recent progress made by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee, in May 2015, towards solving many of the serious implementation problems associated with the IMO Ballast Water Convention. ICS members agreed that this will probably help to ensure that the Convention will now receive sufficient ratifications from governments to enter into force sooner rather than later.
However, ICS members also agreed that those flag states which have not yet ratified the IMO Convention may continue to be deterred from doing so because of the unilateral regime adopted by the United States with respect to the approval of the very expensive new treatment systems required. This currently means that shipowners who, in good faith, install equipment approved in accordance with IMO standards can have no confidence that they will be able to trade to the United States when the IMO Convention eventually enters into force, possibly by the end of 2016.
Masamichi Morooka commented: “ICS members are committed to the implementation of a ballast water treatment regime that will be fit for purpose worldwide. Frankly speaking, the United States is creating an impossible dilemma that can only be solved by the U.S. approving treatment systems immediately and finding a pragmatic approach to reconciling the conflicting timelines within the IMO regime and its own. Apart from the chaos that the United States is creating for international shipping, it is also holding back the ratification of an important IMO Convention that is intended to bring environmental benefits to the entire world, not just the needs of a single country.”
Masamichi Morooka (Japan) continues to serve as ICS Chairman having already been elected for a second two year term in 2014. The 2015 AGM re-elected the following Vice Chairmen: John C Lyras (Greece); Karin Orsel (Netherlands); Gerardo Borromeo (Philippines); and Esben Poulsson (Singapore).
Princess Margriet of the Netherlands
The members of ICS were very honoured by the presence of Her Highness, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, patron of the Dutch Merchant Navy, at a gala dinner on board the cruise ship ‘Jules Verne’, held in conjunction with their AGM.