Shipping industry facing more regional regulation
“Like it or not” more and more of regulations that affect the shipping industry “emanate from the halls of regional, national or local government,” said Robert D. Somerville, chairman and chief executive officer of the American Bureau of Shipping.
“Our traditional focus has been on the collaborative efforts between industry and governments at the International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations, Somerville told participants Tuesday at the Connecticut Maritime Association's annual conference. That has the “overriding benefit” of creating international standards.
The industry is also “given a voice through the consultative status conferred on various associations and bodies,” including the International Association of Classification Societies, of which ABS is one member. ABS also offers technical expertise by participating in U.S. and other flag-state delegations.
The IMO is acting “much faster than in the past” and that “resulting requirements are usually sensible and practical efforts to improve maritime safety and provide further protection for the environment,” he said.
But today, he noted more regulations are coming from regional governments, “usually in response to a specific incident that has affected their water,” he said. “California is one example. Brussels another.”
Unilateral regulations, “while well meaning,” can impose difficulties on the operations of shipping companies.
Somerville also expressed frustration with the way government agencies sometimes view classification societies.
“Our mission, often repeated, is to promote the safety of life, property and the protection of the natural environment,” he said. “And yet we are viewed with a great deal of distrust by some government bodies.
“This is a cause of bewilderment to me,” he added. “Our mission is the same as that of government — safety and protection of the environment.
“That vital element of trust appears to be missing,” he said.
The industry needs to do a better job of helping regulators at the European Commission and elsewhere better understand shipping, he said. ' Chris Dupin