Greek shipping minister raises concerns about meeting IMO 2020 sulphur rule
WITH the January implementation of the International Maritime Organization's low sulphur mandate rapidly approaching, Greece's Shipping Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis has voiced long-standing industry concerns regarding safety, fuel quality and compliance issues
WITH the January implementation of the International Maritime Organization's low sulphur mandate rapidly approaching, Greece's Shipping Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis has voiced long-standing industry concerns regarding safety, fuel quality and compliance issues.
Speaking at the World Shipping Summit in Shanghai, Mr Plakiotakis called on assembled dignitaries to find practical solutions to compliance issues, with a view to 'ensuring fair competition and a level playing field for global shipping'.
Speaking to London's Lloyd's List on the sidelines of the conference, Mr Plakiotakis admitted that his comments were a deliberate attempt to garner broader backing for a more pragmatic approach at the International Maritime Organization, where Greece has often been an isolated critic of the sulphur rules.
'I have expressed my worries directly to the IMO Secretary General,' he said. 'The gas question, low sulphur availability - but I've had no real answers yet and there isn't a plan B right now if something goes wrong.'
While the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) has been a vocal critic of the sulphur rules - and has received backing relating to several key issues from other industry bodies, including Intercargo - Mr Plakiotakis' comments mark a significant escalation from the lobby realm to ministerial level.
'We need to ensure global availability of compliant fuels and resolve all issues related to compliance, quality and safety requirements to alleviate the concerns of the international maritime community,' Mr Plakiotakis told the Shanghai audience.
'From our side, we are moving towards ensuring - through legislation - the full compliance of the bunker industry to the new requirements,' he said.
Agreement with the Greek arguments is often privately expressed in the corridors of the IMO on Victoria Embankment in London and at forums elsewhere, but this has not always been reflected in the public position taken by officials from countries and organisations.
Speaking to Lloyd's List in an interview published last month, UGS president Theodore Veniamis said: 'Some countries need to raise their voices now, at the very next opportunity. We need to wake up some of our colleagues and some other states before it is too late. The way we are headed, they are going to make the biggest mistake of their lives.'
While Mr Plakiotakis' address may win him some industry support, Greece realistically has few options left to influence any last-minute changes to the 2020 sulphur rules at the IMO. While rumours have circulated that Greece hasn't entirely given up on a last-ditch 'pragmatic' softening of the introduction of the sulphur cap, there is no forum left in the IMO calendar to address such issues before implementation of the rule on January 1.