Investigative documentary into shipping emissions premieres

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.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Why is the shipping sector being demonized? Aviation, trucking, private cars and some sectors of industry, commerce and the domestic sectors are much worse but never take this sort of scrutiny. In terms of energy used per tonne/km shipping easily outperforms the rest.

    Are the critics suggesting we go back to sailing ships and quinquerimes? That way lies the end of international trade and the collapse of most of the world’s economy.

    There is a need for a forensic analysis of the tsunami of claims and counter claims about relative pollution and energy utilization. The zealots seem to portray a position which does not bear any any relation to reality, fundamental physics and economics. Various international agencies are tainted by their agendas so they should definitely not be involved in any such studies.

    1. Well said. Enough already with this demonizing of shipping for the sake of non-shipping nations to sell their faulty, and sometimes even more damaging environmental technologies. When rates and costs to the consumer ever reach the parity needed to incorporate all of these new environmental suggestions, there will be a backlash and villainizing of the shipowner that will be caused by the Brussels bureaucrats and their lackeyes.

    2. Hi Phil, DEMONIZED”? No, not only shipping was going a wrong way, other sectors too, as you mentioned; and the result of all is: We and the earth needs an analysis before we are struggeling into a tsunamie, check alle these following scientists words : https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_25506_1/component/file_25507/Wunderlin_ESD_2021-04.pdf.
      Yourself ask for reality? Fundamental physics must be used as a lover, not as an Conqueror, otherwise you´ll find this boundary :
      Hope, that we can find together, it is your world, my world and it was the world of Mr. Toni de Brum of the EMI-the man with the bad experiance within the struggle of MEPC-68 versus rising sealevel (https://theloadstar.com/marshall-islands-berates-shameful-imo-as-it-ignores-climate-change-threat/)

  2. Great video presentation. Very interesting – of course a bit over the one sided, but worth viewing.
    Thanks Splash for sharing.
    I enjoyed it and we know that the shipping industry CAN DO SO MUCH MORE TO IMPROVE….!
    Great potential to improve and contribute to reduced pollution.
    Most scary was the section of death and stickiness close to the harbors – cold ironing should become a must immediately everywhere!!

    Cold ironing,[1] or shore connection, shore-to-ship power (SSP) or alternative maritime power (AMP), is the process of providing shoreside electrical power to a ship at berth while its main and auxiliary engines are turned off.

  3. What an essential Film about a big bad business of the cleanest transportation-system around the globe; my warmest thankful message to you you, Sam Chambers and the crew of this ivestigative film (Stefan Candea at rcij@riseup.net).
    I will send THIS ALSO TO our MEDIA in Germany (added with some additionel facts).
    Greetings from

  4. Follow the money. The climate fanatics are getting wealthy while pushing their green energy ponzi scheme.

  5. For years, shipping has deployed a strategy of kicking the can down the road with regard to cleaning up the mess the industry makes as part of its day-to-day business. As the deadline draws near to the reverse the course of global warming, its practitioners still call for more studies and investigations lead by the IMO, the delayer in chief. The reality for industries is we have no more time. Act now, or have ill-fitting regulations and emissions strategies foist upon you. It is the price you pay for a history of prevarication.

  6. Such a class act Mr. Laskaridis…get ready for some gold medal back-pedaling from UGS…surprised he didn’t call climate change a hoax…

  7. 90% of everything is carried by sea freight and it’s far cleaner than many shore industries since the advent of MARPOL.
    In the 70s when I was at sea we had to clean up our act regarding oil pollution, which we did. Then came sewage, which we did at a time when I remember an article on the billions of gallons of untreated sewage pumped into the sea by the City of Los Angeles.
    This cleanup of our industry by IMO has changed it drastically from those early days, and the last hole to be plugged – atmospheric pollution – was addressed by the sulphur cap of 01/01/2020 which has cost the shipowners dear – but they’ve done it despite conflicting reports on whether the bunkering companies have really carried out their part of the bargain. On top of that, some new ships now coming out of the yards are LNG powered (notably cruise ships) and other technologies are being tried. However, even burning LNG, the waste gases include CO2 and water, and getting rid of the CO2 is not possible.
    It’s the shipping industry that takes the flak, even though 90% of ocean pollution is from land.
    In our current economy there is no alternative to ocean shipping, and this was also the case in the days of sail. The only alternative is to abandon it in favour of green political parties with the resultant collapse of the world economy. Even in the midst of a pandemic, shipping companies and especially the men and women who man the ships, have continued to keep the economy going, often at great cost to themselves. Panic buying may have emptied your supermarket shelves, but shipping keeps them filled, not the supermarket shelf stackers.

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