Maritime centres in beauty contest for ICS representation outpost

(Right) ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe (left) heir apparent, Guy Platten

The outgoing secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, Peter Hinchliffe and his heir apparent, Guy Platten are taking a breather during a whistle-stop tour of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. Their purpose is to offer feedback to ICS in London as to the most appropriate location for its mooted Asian presence. ICS is expected to decide in September.

Mr Hinchliffe and Mr Platten are keen to emphasise that location is not the priority rather it is defining the function of the office and its key objectives.

“It’s about growing the ICS presence in a way that is fully reflective of the growing importance of the region,” says Mr Platten.

“A lot of our work is a virtual circle,” adds Mr Hinchliffe.

“We are listening to what shipowners are telling us internationally and forming a single view that we transmit into the IMO debate. The virtuous bit about the circle is governments need to hear that from their own national associations.

“Because we are located in Europe we have the benefit of actually being able to speak with the governments directly with the national associations. That is an element that is missing from our presence in Asia, and that is an area that the nominated person will have to work on,” he adds.

It’s quite likely that an early task for the appointed representative will be to try to get the Chinese Shipowners Association to join ICS, an objective thus far denied, as well as recruiting other associations in the ASEAN region.

“Getting China to engage with us more formally is an objective,” says Mr Hinchliffe.

“It’s important that we get the Chinese Shipowners Association on board. And there are other associations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia that could benefit from membership. The whole Asian Shipowners Association structure is fine for what it is intended to do. But these national associations are not conveying their voice formally into IMO because they don’t have that avenue. ICS can give them that avenue. They may be happy with what ICS is doing but they are denying themselves the opportunity to engage in the debate and influence it where they want to,” he says.

What is certain is that neither Hong Kong, Singapore nor Tokyo will be so sanguine about which location ICS chooses for its location in the region. Will it be Hong Kong by virtue of its being on the doorstop of China? Could it be Singapore for its position in the heart of ASEAN? Or will Tokyo win out for its reputation for innovation and its shipyards?

On more pressing matters such as the upcoming global 0.5% sulphur cap in 2020. “We are facing a really big challenge and shipowners have got to think about the part they have to play and it can’t be left to the middle of next year.

Mr Hinchliffe is quick to dismiss what the press has been playing up as a change in sentiment toward the use of marine scrubbers.

“So far it’s only 1,000 ships out of 80,000 vessels that are fitting scrubbers. Most of these orders are coming for new ships.

“The most important message from ICS is that this is only an interim solution. Because of the CO2 requirements that will come in over the life of the next generation of ships people should not think that the scrubber would be a long-term solution. If all goes to according our aspirations then we will have an entirely new fuel, which will be low carbon or maybe even carbon free. Then the scrubber becomes completely irrelevant,” he says.

Attention is turned to the IMO and a recent increase in members expressing dissatisfaction with how the Organization is run. Recently Australia, supported by the Liberian Registry, has attacked the IMO on various administrative aspects involved in the running of the organization including the funding, how Council members are elected and whether or not there should be different levels of membership.

“I think it is right that the IMO should examine those questions.

“But what we are focused on is the actual regulatory process. We had a fair hearing at the Council. But I think the Council has cast it aside. I don’t think it will be cast aside forever. I think it will come back and we shall work with the International Association of Classification Societies to try to retain it on the agenda because the regulatory process certainly needs to be more accountable,” Mr Hinchliffe concludes.

Guy Platten will take on the role of ICS secretary general on 1 August 2018 when Peter Hinchliffe steps down.

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