ICS Chairman Grimaldi: The maritime sector is both resilient and resourceful

The war in Ukraine, cybersecurity, and increased environmental regulations are just three of the issues currently affecting the global shipping industry but, says Emanuele Grimaldi, Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, the maritime sector is both resilient and resourceful.

With the war in Ukraine now in its second year, how is the shipping industry dealing with the consequences of sanctions against Russia and the subsequent changes to global trade flows?

Shipping is a resilient and resourceful industry. When the war in Ukraine began, we mobilised straight away to protect the welfare of our seafarers and worked with governments to keep global trade moving. There was great concern for seafarers trapped in Ukrainian ports and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the shipping industry worked to make sure that their welfare was a priority. There was further concern when the movement of vital grain supplies out of Ukrainian ports came to a standstill. When the Black Sea grain deal was agreed, shipping worked fast to move essential grain shipments out of Ukrainian ports, transporting it to those parts of the world where it was needed most. Thanks to shipping and our seafarers, a humanitarian crisis was averted. The war has also exposed the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels, as energy prices soared in response to the inaccessibility of Russian oil and gas. This is a stark reminder that we must accelerate the green energy transition and find alternative fuel sources.

Technology is crucial to improving maritime industry efficiency and growth but cybersecurity issues threaten to jeopardise ships and their crews. What steps are being taken in the face of such challenges?

As shipping becomes increasingly digitalised, this creates new vulnerabilities to cyberattacks. At the ICS, we recently conducted a poll of over 130 maritime leaders across the world and early insights show that cyber threats are seen as a rising risk for maritime leaders, accompanied by a decreasing confidence in maritime’s ability to mitigate the effects. Cyber exposure will grow unless robust standards are implemented and enforced, so we must see this as an opportunity to improve. Tools such as the ICS Guidelines for Cyber Security Onboard Ships exist to help shipowners mitigate cybersecurity risks. While current IMO measures are non-mandatory, impending IACS Unified Requirements will place obligations on newbuild vessels to have cybersecure systems and integration from 2024.

While you managed the Grimaldi Group, you were involved in the Motorways of the Sea (MoS) project to develop a sustainable, seamless and smart European maritime space. How would you evaluate the progress on this project?

The MoS have undergone tremendous development in the last 20 years and we can proudly say that it is a success story in Europe. The Grimaldi Group has been a pioneer in this mode of transport with over 130 MoS routes currently operated in the Euro-Mediterranean area, shifting millions of trucks and trailers every year from congested motorways to sea transport, through the use of Ro/Ro and Ro/Pax vessels. The introduction of new international regulations aiming at cutting harmful emissions will be a major challenge for the MoS. Operators will have to invest further in new technology to reduce fuel consumption in order to continue being competitive compared to other modes of transport.

Has the shipping industry recovered from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? What is the current situation as regards global supply chains and shipping?

Since the pandemic, the shipping industry has seen a rebound in the container sector and we now observe an increased demand for fuels while bulk trades continue. This is proof of our industry’s flexibility to adapt to changing trade patterns and testament to its operational resilience. As a result of COVID-19, the industry is now more united than ever to address the challenges that face us. We have a renewed focus on safeguarding our seafarers and learning lessons from the pandemic about the importance of making sure that our seafarers are safe and well. We have recognised the urgent need for updated medical information – this was highlighted when we saw the overwhelming and positive response to the medical materials that we published during COVID-19 – and in March this year we published the International Medical Guide for Seafarers and Fishers to help seafarers handle onboard medical emergencies.

How does the ICS view IMO’s plans and timetable for the decarbonisation of shipping? Are they feasible, with only seven years remaining before 2030?

IMO member states need to set a clear direction of travel or else we will miss crucial targets. The shipping industry needs clarity on a global regulation to reduce carbon emissions that increases ambition. Without this, we risk having a lot of regional schemes that are fragmented, leading to a slower transition. The ICS was the first industry association to put forward a submission to the IMO to increase the ambition of its initial strategy calling for a target of net zero carbon emissions from shipping by 2050. In out three-point plan, we have submitted a proposal for a fund and reward scheme to create a market mechanism to incentivise first movers and invest in infrastructure and support developing economies. The second point concerns the Clean Energy Marine Hubs (CEM Hubs) initiative, which will catalyse the liquid fuels market that all countries and shipping will need. Thirdly, and most importantly, are our people. Seafarers must be equipped with the skills to use new fuels and technology and we must make sure that this is a just transition so that no seafarer gets left behind. We need to upskill 800,000 seafarers by the mid-2030s, so we must act fast.

You were appointed as ICS Chairman almost a year ago. What are your main priorities? Are there key issues for which you are determined to find solutions by the end of your second year in office?

As chair of the ICS, I am honoured to continue the great work that has come before me. As I head into my second year in office, I remain committed to ensuring the positive treatment of seafarers and making sure that their vital contribution to the global economy is recognised by all. The Seafarer 2050 summit taking place in June in Manila will look at how we can recruit and retain our workforce and create a more inclusive shipping industry that looks after its people in the face of an uncertain future. I also look forward to our important work in accelerating the green energy transition. We need to move fast to succeed and, most importantly, we need to recognise that decarbonisation is a challenge that goes beyond the shipping industry. All governments and industries have a responsibility to come together for closer collaboration.

This interview first appeared in the May edition of GOLD magazine. Click here to view it.

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