Shipping’s intransigence gives regulators the whip hand

Copenhagen is a very, very green place. So much so that yesterday evening as an electric ferry, comandeered by Danish Maritime, silently glided through the city’s waterways, the guide onboard pointed out swimming baths along the river where even the Crown Princess goes for a dip — though probably not last night, as it was a tad inclement.

Denmark gets green better than most countries I have visited. Its problem is that it is way too far ahead of most other nations in pursuing an environmental agenda.

The same could be said for many of the lofty ideals that came out of this week’s Danish Maritime Days and its centrepiece, the Danish Maritime Forum.

Attendees were repeatedly told of shipping’s great green credentials on the one hand, while being warned of the threat faced by COP21 (the upcoming Paris UN climate change summit), and the unlevel playing field created by those early adopters of green practices and the laggards behind.
Summing up at the forum, delegates were told to be “evangelists” and to form a “coalition of the willing” to get more of shipping united and onside — or risk the wrath of environmental regulators.

Here’s the rub. The talk is all very well. Those handpicked to attend (via handwritten letters from the event’s secretary-general, Flemming Jacobs, no less) are already at the apex of green shipping, but persuading the vast majority of their competitors to be as proactive will, I am afraid to write, prove impossible. The fact is shipping will always be brought down by its inability to move as one, and to be ahead of the regulators.

I enjoyed the week, and indeed the sentiment, yet sadly, like a relay team, shipping can only progress if the baton gets handed and accepted by each player. As we all know there are simply too many substandard, corner-cutting, penny pinchers out there. The very unfair, unlevel playing field is set to continue.

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.
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