- POSTED: 26 Sep 2013 23:44
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To coincide with World Maritime Day, the who's who of the global shipping industry gathered in Singapore on Thursday to discuss the issue of maritime sustainability.
SINGAPORE: To coincide with World Maritime Day, the who's who of the global shipping industry gathered in Singapore on Thursday to discuss the issue of maritime sustainability.
The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) -- a 21-member strong industry group comprising ship owners, builders, banks and customers -- gave an update on the progress that has been made to date.
It aims to achieve a vision of a global shipping industry that is both profitable and sustainable.
Some initiatives include a financing model dubbed "Save as You Sail" to encourage ship owners to retrofit their vessels with more energy-efficient technology, and a scheme to boost the recycling of shipbuilding materials and other operational technology aimed at cutting down emissions.
SSI members say they are hoping to set an example for the broader shipping industry.
Roger Jansen, President and Business Unit Leader of Ocean Transportation at Cargill, elaborated: "Luckily we are a good sound business. We have been profitable even in the last couple of years when the shipping business, as a whole, went through a difficult couple of years. And we are very happy to use some of these proceeds to invest in projects, to give some leadership in the technical field, but also in setting the norms in the shipping market in terms of standards around vessels, the environment and labour."
Some players, however, are more concerned about shoring up the industry's profitability.
With the shipping industry carrying over 90 per cent of all global trade, industry insiders say they simply cannot imagine a sustainable global economy without also a sustainable maritime industry.
But the real challenge is striking a balance between what is good for the earth and what is good for the bottom line -- particularly in these uncertain economic times.
Shipping companies are well-aware of this difficult dynamic and the risks they take in embracing costly, fuel-efficient new technology.
C.K. Ong, President of U-Ming Marine Transport Corporation, said: "We are subject to institutional investors' scrutiny. It is difficult to strike a balance because if you want to protect the environment, it comes at a cost. But I believe the cost will ultimately be paid off in the longer term, but it will always be subject to risk.
“When we invest in this new technology and new devices to improve efficiency, we are working under the assumption that the bulker cost will be maintained at a high level. But who knows, we are living in a very dynamic world anything could change, if the bulker price drops all our investment would probably not be paid off."
Soaring rates five years ago spurred ship owners to commission what turned out to be an excessive number of new vessels.
And the industry is now saddled with overcapacity and rising fuel costs amidst slow demand.
Many analysts see this weakness in demand carrying through to next year.
The SSI says its next challenges include tackling poor labour conditions, influencing regulations and standards, as well as removing barriers to getting new technology on ships.