The first to say "shipping is facing the perfect regulatory storm", during this week's Capital Link CSR forum in Athens, was Apostolos Poulovassilis, the event's very first speaker. Indeed, the day was only a few hours old when it became obvious the event's title 'Operational Excellence in Shipping' was difficult to achieve, with Poulovassilis soon to observe, "operational excellence is far from excellent".


"Regulations are a tremendous challenge for shipping today," said the ceo of Aegean Shipping Management. The former Lloyd's Register regional marine manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, then recounted a recent newbuilding project for Aegean meant "wading through 10 pages of regulations" which were "fragmented and contradictory". "The shipowner has an investment and has to protect it, this is not easy," said Poulovassilis.

The industry has to work together to overcome the regulatory and technical challenges it faces, said Dimitris Vastarouchas, deputy coo of Danaos Corp. "Technology is developing so fast we are moving from the smart ship to smart shipping. We have to apply new technologies in our operations, but technology moves faster than it can be adopted. Today, what was successful in the past is no longer so."

He said companies have to invest in the human element taking on people with a modern approach, "surveys show people need training to cope with the new challenges if we are to avoid a chaotic mess."

Dimitrios Fafalios, president director Fafalios Shipping and Intercargo's technical committee chairman, said "uncertainty is the only thing that is certain today". Regulations not only keep on changing he said, but "technology coming into shipping is land-based which has been 'maritimised' in a less than perfect way". He suggested the shipping Round Table should speak to manufacturers with a view to forming an organisation to discuss the challenges and the uncertainty".

He also noted regulations covering technical matters are usually framed for newbuildings, not retrofits. He also noted there is no ballast water testing procedure in place. "We need to fight to make the ballast water process more practical, as owners have to invest in equipment and training".

Bill Box, senior commercial manager Intertanko, stressed the need for consistency in enforcing regulations, while pointing out "boom times don't last". However, he said "tanker men live in hope, are optimistic but are also realists".

According to Tom Boardley of Lloyd's Register, technology has not moved so far. "The real change has come in the way shipping is now funded and the concentration of expertise, so evident in Greece and China, and the change in ownership structure. Greece and China are the industry leaders and many of the losers are European," he said. He also noted shipping is not the only sector with problems, with the motor and construction industries also not up to scratch. "The regulations and the monitoring of them does not work," he said. He also called for the industry to work together, especially the bunkering and shipping operation sectors, who then have to work with the regulators.

Development of unilateral regulations is a major concern, noted Kostas Vlachos, md, Consolidated Marine Management. "Trying to monitor different regulations around the world is a problem and creating great confusion among seafarers distracting them from their main task of operating a vessel safely."

Rear Admiral Linda L. Fagan, deputy commandant for operations, policy, and capabilities USCG, agreed regulations are complicated for regulators and enforcers, but said the key is to create "a level playing field".

Filed: 2017-11-02