Theodore Veniamis:”The regional market-based measures, are incompatible with the global nature of maritime transport”

In the annual report of the Union of Greek Shipowners for 2021 the president of UGS describes the actions of the Union and explains its views in the latest developments of the shipping industry.
“The unprecedented global health crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has prominently highlighted the vital role of the shipping industry in the uninterrupted transportation of 90% of global trade, as it continues to deliver on its mission, despite the multifaceted challenges it faces. It is thanks to the thousands of vessels operating worldwide and the hard work of maritime professionals and seafarers, “the heroes of the seas”, that a global economic meltdown has been averted.
Yet, in spite of the undeniably indispensable contribution of shipping to securing the global supply and fl ow of vital goods and products to markets and people around the world, in good times as well as during times of crises, the industry’s needs are absent from the list of priorities of governmental officials and decision-makers. Shipping merits the recognition and support it deserves in line with its status and contribution to international trade and world prosperity. Such recognition and support are essential in order to facilitate the undisrupted provision of sea freight services and the unobstructed movement of seafarers around the world, which is pivotal for their health and well-being and for safety at sea. The months ahead appear to be even more challenging, due mainly to climate change-related regulatory issues and initiatives both at international and European level. In this context, we welcome and fully support the IMO’s role as the body responsible for providing the global maritime transport regulatory framework, and we believe that its continuous efforts should not be undermined by regional and/or unilateral legislative initiatives, and in particular of the European Union.
The UGS remains firmly committed to environmental protection and carbon-free shipping. But we need to be clear that shipping decarbonisation cannot be a realistic goal, without the crucial contribution of ship engine manufacturers, shipyards, marine fuel producers and suppliers. Moreover, unless significant R&D investment is allocated for the development of appropriate propulsion systems and marine fuels, shipping will continue to be carbon captive. However, it is shipowners that are called upon to comply with misguided policies and primarily revenue-generating legislation. Regarding the recently announced “Fit for 55” package by the European Commission (EC), the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), as a regional market-based measure, is incompatible with the global nature of maritime transport and the shipping industry’s modus operandi, while it seriously undermines the ongoing international efforts and negotiations towards the sector’s decarbonisation. However, the EC’s acknowledgement of the structural role of charterers in meeting the compliance costs deriving from the proposed inclusion of shipping in the EU ETS is a fundamental principle based on “the polluter pays” rule. It is this principle that the UGS has emphasised from the beginning and which must form the starting point for the forthcoming deliberations at the EU institutions, as it can deliver tangible outcomes in the fight against climate change, without endangering the competitiveness of European shipping.
Greek shipping, with its hands-on and highly experienced entrepreneurs, is committed to continuing its constructive contribution during the upcoming negotiations, both at European as well as at international level. We will do so by putting forward ambitious, yet pragmatic and realistic proposals, which can guarantee the substantial improvement of our industry’s carbon footprint, and which at the same time can safeguard the long-term viability of a sector that is of strategic importance to the EU and its citizens.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Greece’s accession to the EU, an event which has massively reinforced Europe’s shipping industry, through the induction of the Greek-owned fleet in its ranks. Today, Greek-owned vessels represent 58% of the EU-controlled fleet, rendering Greek shipping a strategic asset for the continent, a cornerstone for the European maritime cluster and a key stakeholder with a critical role to play in the EU.
At a national level, the recent past period has been decisive for addressing legislative failures that have had an adverse effect on the competitiveness of the Greek Ship Register. Besides its inherent qualitative advantages, the Greek flag is now also considered as highly competitive, with its main weakness now lying in the delayed implementation of its digital transformation processes across certain operational and administrative aspects. In the same context, and in our effort to support the Greek State’s expressed desire to revive seamanship as an integral part of the Greek shipping miracle, we launched a few months ago a campaign targeting the youth with the aim to promote shipping careers. Greek shipping calls on the youth with an open invitation to “a sea of opportunities”, with open horizons of professional and personal development, at times of high employment insecurity and low volumes of new job creation. The ability to attract and recruit the youth, in tandem with the necessary further expansion of our Merchant Marine Academies and the anticipated modernisation of marine education and training standards, are the critical factors that will help us preserve the Greek maritine know-how and increase the number of Greek seafarers onboard the Greek owned fleet. We are determined to persevere for as long as it takes in order to achieve these important goals. At the same time, the Greek Shipowners’ Social Welfare Company, “SYN-ENOSIS”, continues unabated to deliver on its multi-dimensional work. Programmes on areas as diverse as public health, education, national defence and civil protection are being diligently implemented as planned, while constantly undertaking new initiatives, in response to the increasing needs of the society and in line with the shipping community’s vision to play a key role as essential contributor to it.
During this decade we will see new parameters that will frame the operational environment of international shipping, particularly pertaining to the interconnected and interdependent aspects of the industry’s environmental footprint and competitiveness. Within this demanding and uncertain context, our shipping with its proven track record, its qualitative advantages, superior know-how and a long maritime legacy will rise above any challenge, maintain and reinforce its role as a major national asset and cement its  status as an important stakeholder on the international stage”.

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