Vancouver’s local maritime industry was treated to a special opportunity to hear from Esben Poulsson, Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Shipping (COS) here in B.C. in late March. “We’re very fortunate to be able to welcome Mr. Poulsson,” said COS President Robert Lewis-Manning, referring to the guest of honour as a “rock star and shipping icon.”
Photo above: Esben Poulsson meets with local industry stakeholders during his recent visit to Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Dave Roels and the Chamber of Shipping.
Indeed, Poulsson’s 40-plus years in the shipping industry have been highlighted by leadership roles including Chairman of Enesel, a Singapore based commercial management and ship owning entity; Non-Executive Director of X-Press Feeders (the world’s leading container-feeder ship owner/operator), of First Ship Lease Trust (a Singapore-based business Trust which owns a diverse modern fleet comprising 24 vessels) and of Hafnia Tankers (a major product tanker owner/operator headquartered in Copenhagen). He was also elected as President of the Singapore Shipping Association in June 2015, of which he has been a Council Member since 2007. He serves on the Board of the Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and is an Advisory Council Member of the Singapore Maritime Foundation.
Greenhouse gas emissions
In representing about 80 per cent of the world fleet through 35 national associations and 11 associate associations, the ICS’ task of ensuring the views of the shipping industry are well represented within the International Maritime Organization and other governments is a critical role -- and none more so than in addressing the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. “While there is little disagreement on goals,” Poulsson said of the position of ICS, “there can be differences of opinions on the principles to achieve desired results.”
Poulsson stressed the need for the industry to work with the IMO to develop an action plan by 2018 that could be in place by 2023 that follows the spirit of the Paris COP21 agreement. “We fear that unless we see serious progress, we’ll lose the opportunity to craft reasonable regulations and will end up with splintered legislation across many jurisdictions,” he said, pointing to places like the European Union and California who were eager to move forward with their own laws.
Earlier initiatives, such as the Energy-Efficiency Design Index and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, have contributed to the industry’s move toward lower emissions and, Poulsson noted that “it is a fact that by 2025, ships will be emitting 30 per cent less CO2.” However, to meet the aspirations of the Paris Agreement, the IMO needs to agree to a baseline of peak CO2 emissions and a mechanism for delivery.
And, while whatever goal the IMO adopts must be realistic, a reduction of emissions will only be achievable with the use of alternative fuels, which are not yet readily available. “Total CO2 has already been reduced by more than 10 per cent between 2007 and 2012,” Poulsson said, “but projection of trade growth will suggest that a dramatic reduction will be difficult to achieve until alternative fuels are a reality. In the meantime, ICS argues that any CO2 reduction goals agreed to by IMO must also address the legitimate concerns of the industry and that no unforeseen or unintended consequences are wrapped into ill-thought-out regulations.”
Overall however, Poulsson was optimistic: “Shipping has proven itself to be very adaptable and has somehow always come up with a solution. It is the role of ICS to ensure any new regulations are based on evidence and science. We need to persuade regulators that we want to do the right thing but it has to be practicable.”
In addition to highlighting the ICS’ position on greenhouse gas emissions, Poulsson provided an update on other activities, including a new branding initiative underway within the ICS that will convey the more international aspects of shipping and an image of “energy and progressiveness as well as determination.” The strategy also includes a more sophisticated level of communications to reach out to non-shipping media and provide greater awareness of the importance of shipping to the general public. Poulsson further reported that Peter Hinchcliffe, current Secretary General of the ICS has announced his intention to retire next year and that an executive search has begun for his replacement.
A robust discussion period followed Poulsson’s presentation where attendees raised questions about the methodology of measuring emissions; a sustainable and equitable solution to reducing greenhouse gases that does not disproportionately impact smaller shipping companies; benchmarks for measuring emissions; and availability of fuels, particularly in the United States.