July 12, 2004

Shipowners need to speak with one voice says P&I Club

Shipowners need to speak with one voice if they are to stop the seemingly unrelenting campaign by the world's governments and public authorities to penalize and criminalize the shipping industry, according to the North of England P&I club.

In the latest issue of the club's newsletter North News, claims director Ian Henderson says: "An industry that generates over $200 billion in income, employs two million people and carries 90% of international trade is one that governments and public authorities cannot afford to ignore.'

Introduction of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code is the latest example of increasing challenges facing the shipping industry, says North of England. Other recent developments reported by the club include a nearly 250% jump in May 2004 in injury and property compensation limits under the 1996 protocol to the LLMC convention and a 50% increase in November 2003 for pollution claims under amendments to the 1992 protocols to the CLC and IOPC Fund conventions.

"In addition we have the all-new 1996 Hazardous and Noxious Substances convention, the 2001 Bunkers convention, a 500% increase in passenger liability proposed by the 2002 protocol to the Athens convention and the draft Wreck Removal convention," says associate director Colin Trappe.

The club says increasing criminalization of seafarers--particularly when there is no evidence of criminal intent or recklessness--is also undermining the shipping industry, with the possible result that masters may now retire early rather than risk spending their final working years in jail.

"The inevitable consequence of this is a greater proportion of less-experienced officers at the helm and problems in attracting cadets," says Henderson, himself a former seagoing chief officer.

From a shipping community perspective, Henderson says, the hostility of governments and public authorities seems disproportionate given that the shipping industry is already highly regulated, has a safety record envied by many shore-based transport sectors and is the most environmentally friendly form of commercial transport.

"Society perhaps needs reminding that the 40,000 plus ships that ply the world's oceans are highly sophisticated vehicles capable of operating efficiently and independently in some of the world's harshest environments--not the 'unreliable rust buckets' that the headline writers would have the public believe," says Trappe.

The club concludes that the real push for change must come from shipowners directly, ideally through their national shipowner associations but more significantly through international organizations such as the International Chamber of Shipping, BIMCO, Intertanko and Intercargo--which together form the Round Table of international maritime organizations.

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