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ECSA: European shipping could go the way of its yards

The incoming head of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) has a stark warning for bureaucrats in Brussels – support shipping or watch the industry die.

ECSA’s president-elect Panos Laskaridis uses the Maritime CEO platform today to call for help. European flags and the regional shipping industry need specific measures from Brussels, he says, in order to keep the maritime cluster alive and to avoid a similar fate to the continent’s shipbuilders, who have seen their businesses usurped by Asian upstarts.

The seasoned Greek shipowner believes that keeping a strong local fleet is in the interests not only of the European countries and economies but also in the US and Canada since, he says, “they don’t want to wake up one day and find that their products are carried by ships which have been built, operated, owned and manned by their main commercial competitors – the Chinese and Japanese – who are competing with them on every side of business”.

The ECSA board of directors gathers together the directors of its 21 national member associations and has authority to take decisions on all relevant issues within the shipping sector. Talking about the present political scenario Laskaridis says that shipowners have to regain the initiative on the agenda of shipping issues.

“I’m saying this because in Europe, and in the world, the stakeholders – politicians, regulators, the EU parliament, ministers and so on – when they speak about shipping they mainly mean what we shipowners understand under the shipping cluster. I don’t particularly like thinking of us shipowners just as a small link in the chain; I think we should think in terms of the shipowning business as the solid foundation from which everything has built up.” He also stresses the importance of distinguishing among different ship types in trading when it comes to discussing the competitiveness of the European fleet and what it means for different shipping segments.

Another very important distinction to be done is between international and regional regulations, according to Laskaridis.

“We stand squarely on the side of the internationally accepted regulations,” he states, before adding: “Unfortunately this is not happening in all aspects today. There are examples both in Europe but also on the other side of the Atlantic where local governments and local interests produce regional legislation and only after the event we have seen the bad effects of these regional regulations we try to find international solutions.”


  1. It’s pity that CEO the leader has to make this statement. ICAO the counterpart of IMO in it’s objective includes commercial aspects for equitable participation in sharing the business opportunity. unfortunately IMO has in it’s objective nothing but Safety . And after so many decades of existence it’s still struggling to make claim of success for reasonable achievement of it. Of course using IMO for selling technology has become an accepted practice . Is it the reason for not able to prevent loss of life and property is any body’s guess!
    But high time IMO should also aim to see survival of divergence in all aspect of a ship.

  2. This is a much more complicated question than it appears to be.

    I am sure that we all agree with Mr Laskaridis that shipowning is the most important element in the “shipping industry” – it is the bit that everything else hangs off, so to speak. But, as we all know, shipowning can be done out of a suitcase, anywhere, including from on board the ship. All you need is communications and a bank account. This being so, what is “European shipowning”? I know European owners who own fleets of ships registered outside Europe and operated from offices outside Europe, and Asian owners who do exactly the opposite.

    Where I suggest that we might usefully start is by looking at European cabotage. China practices cabotage, so does the USA, so to insist that cargo moving between ports within the EU should do so on ships built, registered, manned and managed inside the EU would not seem unreasonable. I don’y want to go into beneficial ownership. I am just throwing this thought out as a debating point.

    Deepsea shipping is another kettle of fish. European owners spent decades fighting the UNCTAD Liner Code, so it would seem a little odd if they suddenly decided to adopt it.

  3. Yes European Shipyards have seen and do see every day competition from Asia, but ….. European Shipbuilding is not dead, far from that. By focussing on innovation they have developed – in close cooperatinon with European Marine Equipment Manufacturers and research institues – solutions (technical, financial and commercial) that can help European Ship owners to win their own competition. Instead of pointing at each other and being change adverse, we should cooperate and embrace change in order to win the Maritime competition battle. Innovation and adapting faster to new challenges is the best strategy for the European Maritime Community to survive.

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