It is always an auspicious sign when some of the largest names in Greek shipping get together to discuss not only shipping policy but also how it actively impacts the industry.
This year’s Maritime Cyprus 2023 Conference had an explosive line up in this regard with the ending panel on Day 1 being comprised of industry titans such as, the representative of Cypriot Union of Shipowners Mr. Andreas Hadjiyannis, Mr. George Procopiou who was awarded the previous night with the prestigious shipping award, Mr Thanassis Martinos and last but not least Ms. Suzanna Laskaridis.
During these talks, the four gave their views on the current state of affairs and how they, as the main recipients of all implemented legislation, view the current situation. Their take was, to the surprise of many, one of pessimism, mainly due to the current green direction of Shipping and the seemingly unattainable goals of “net zero” by 2050. Mr. Hadjiyannis was the first to comment on how cost and environmentally efficient the current world fleet already is, remarking on the already excellent per tonne/fuel efficiency.
This was followed up by Mr. Procopiou with an explosive salvo against the politicians that promise a carbon free shipping industry with a set implementation date, while knowing no effective alternatives are present for those that have to make good on those promises.
With over 50 years of shipping experience to draw from, Mr. Procopiou reflected on how his companies are using and have always used the most modern methods in shipbuilding when commissioning new vessels with no financial assistance or incentives of any kind given by the EU or any western organisation. The panel continued to echo these sentiments, with Mr. Martinos also asserting that the shipping industry is taken for granted by both governments and the general public and that during the Covid -19 pandemic, it was the uninterrupted flow of goods that allowed the world to continue to function properly, while also helping with the post pandemic recovery.
Following this, Ms. Laskaridis jokingly mentioned a hypothetical scenario of a global shipping strike of 1 day and how that would highlight the importance of a healthy shipping industry to the world. She also thanked seafarers for the role that they played during the pandemic and remarked on the importance of their continued mental and physical health, a statement also echoed by the Secretary General of the IMO.
The elephant in the room was also repeatedly brought up, with the infamous Belt and Road Initiative of China just passing its 10 year anniversary and the results being evident to all.
Through the brilliance of Chinese long term strategic investment in key infrastructure, the Greek titans lamented that they were already surpassed in global tonnage control and that the gap would continue to grow, as in contrast to its far east counterparts, the EU is actively encouraging damaging and financially unfeasible shipping policies without providing a way for owners to follow through.
These views strongly contrasted a highly optimistic conference opening, showing that there is quite a large gap between the policy makers and those that are mandated to find a cost friendly way to materialize the dream of a carbon neutral shipping industry.
Reporting by Constantinos Alafogiorgos