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  ICS Addresses World Transport Ministers on Piracy Crisis
2/6/2011

On behalf of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents the global shipping industry and the world national shipowners associations, ICS Board member, Michael Parker (who is also President of the UK Chamber of Shipping) addressed Transport Ministers from around the world at the OECD International Transport Forum, in Leipzig, Germany.

Mr. Parker explained that about 90% of world trade is carried by sea, but all too often the shipping industry is «out of sight and out of mind». He stressed that the most immediate priority for governments, if they were serious about maintaining the efficiency and security of the global supply chain, «must be to address the piracy crisis in the Indian Ocean. In the last few months, the situation, quite simply, has spiralled out of control».

As Transport Ministers from Europe (including Russia), the United States and Asia (including China) held their annual meeting, Mr. Parker advised them that about 600 seafarers were being held hostage in Somalia, their ships having been hijacked, «with thousands more having endured months of captivity in appalling conditions». He explained that ships were currently being attacked on a daily basis, and that the international community appeared impotent, in effect ceding control of most of the Indian Ocean to violent criminal gangs. «Governments need to take the situation far more seriously». While a long term solution needed to be found within Somalia itself, this would probably take years if not decades. He said «The immediate need is to tackle the pirates with increased military resources, before our seafarers decide that they are simply unwilling to continue risking their lives».

The theme of the OECD Forum was Transport in Society. Mr. Parker therefore used the opportunity to explain to Ministers that:

• The priority for shipping is to be safe, clean and efficient. The shipping industry is focused on a commitment to «continuous improvement», with a goal of zero accidents with the minimum possible impact on the environment.

• The low cost of shipping has undoubtedly facilitated globalisation and the shift of industrial production to Asia, to which raw materials are transported cheaply in huge quantities, with finished goods and products being moved at very low cost, due to the economies of scale of modern container vessels.

• A major development in container shipping is the move towards much larger ships. «When I started in this industry a large containership carried 1,700 containers. Today we are looking at ships 10 times larger. These large ships bring massive economies of scale and a substantial reduction in fuel consumption and therefore emissions.»

• As a result, the typical maritime transport cost of moving a flat screen TV from China to Europe is about US 3 dollars - «this has clearly benefited the living standards of individuals enormously».

• The industry is very much aware of the need to play its part in reducing CO2 emissions. «Modern vessels are a huge improvement on older ones - as one would expect. The prospects for future improvements are very positive. The leaders in our industry now see the environment as an area for competitive advantage as our customers seek to reduce their environmental footprint. This is a very open international industry and therefore it is essential that environmental legislation is internationally based through the International Maritime Organization». In particular, he stressed the importance of governments supporting the adoption by IMO of legislation on technical and operational measures to reduce CO2 of shipping, at an important meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee, in July 2011 in London. «Our challenge» said Mr. Parker, to the assembled Ministers «is to ensure that policy makers understand the important role of maritime transport and the implications of their decisions».

 
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