Many famous names in world shipping including the secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Greece’s minister for shipping and a host of well known shipowners have been left red-faced with the release of new European documentary looking at shipping emissions.
Black Trail is an hour-long investigation into the environmental impacts of the shipping industry, including a frank look at how the sector is governed and subsidised.
Produced by European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), the film confronts those who have the actual power to change shipping’s climate policy.
Ioannis Plakiotakis, Greece’s minister of shipping, describes himself in the film as the most important minister worldwide in terms of shipping. Plakiotakis hits out at regulators for issuing policies without any real scientific proof and stresses how he would prefer that the IMO leads the environmental debate, not the European Union.
Plakiotakis is then shown earlier footage of an interview with local shipowner Panos Laskaridis, the former president of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), who claims that the Greek government does whatever the Union of Greek Shipowners tells it to do.
“People who are in shipping don’t need the Greek government, don’t need the ministry, don’t need the IMO, don’t need the prime minister. They can shit on the prime minister,” Laskaridis says to camera, with Plakiotakis watching the footage on an iPad in his office. Laskaridis continued: “They have no need of the prime minister. Why? Because shipping has nothing to do with Greece. There is nothing that a shipowner will gain from Greece. No cargoes to Greece. No contracts from Greece, nothing in Greece. Only his office is here. 80% has foreign flags. They don’t care about the Greek flag.”
The film also features interviews with other Greek owners such as George Prokopiou, John Platsidakis and Dimitris Fafalios.
Elsewhere, Olaf Merk from the OECD is interviewed in Paris with the Dutchman repeating a familiar complaint he has with the industry, namely that shipping is only paying 7% tax on profits on average worldwide.
In the UK, Dr Tristan Smith from UCL Energy Institute is interviewed at length on the IMO’s failure to press ahead with more far reaching emissions regulations.
IMO regulations about CO2 regulations are not on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals because the energy efficiency regulations that the IMO is implementing are too weak to ensure that there are no rises in greenhouse has emissions from shipping over the coming decade, Smith argued.
“Because it takes so long to change the shipping industry we might be in a situation where shipping suddenly finds it’s 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and then it’s 50% and then it’s even the dominant source of global greenhouse gas emissions,” Smith warned.
Much of the focus of the investigation into shipping looked at the role of the IMO.
Faig Abbasov, director of shipping at NGO Transport & Environment, said the situation in shipping was akin to a fox being in charge of the henhouse with the IMO captured by the shipping industry.
After six weeks of trying and failing to get an interview with Kitack Lim, the IMO secretary-general, the journalists doorstepped him at his house in London last December (pictured).
The documentary can be watched below.