The UK needs to make sure we seize future opportunities, take the strategic lead as a nation and develop new trading partnerships.
Sarah Treseder OBE, UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive
Welcome to my first Journal since taking over as Chamber Chief Executive in October. The last few months have provided me with the opportunity to meet members and stakeholders and hear about the excellent work going on across our industry.
We all know it has been an incredibly tough time for much of the shipping sector over the last two years. Covid has fundamentally changed the world we live in, and for our industry we are still seeing issues with crew changes and shifting consumer patterns means there continues to be global supply chain issues with backlogs in ports around the world.
Despite these issues, seafarers have kept Britain supplied with the food, medicines and goods we have needed. Freight has continued to flow into the country because of our shipping and maritime key workers and everyone associated with the Chamber thanks them for their heroic work which continues to this day.
It goes without saying that Covid has been the dominant issue facing the sector in the last two years.
As a nation we are learning to live with the disease and the new variants that occur. In the last 12 months we have had Delta and Omicron, both causing huge issues across society.
At the Chamber we have worked with our members and industry partners to make sure we react to these events quickly and effectively. We have strengthened our relationships with departments across Whitehall, meaning we can feed back information in a timely fashion and lobby on behalf of our members more effectively.
Seafarer vaccinations has been one of the thorny issues of the year. In the UK we were pleased to see the government extend vaccinations to visiting seafarers but internationally there are reports of crew receiving multiple courses of vaccinations and multiple vaccine types. In the next year we will continue to work with our partners and do all we can to protect those working on board ships and ensure they get fair treatment around the world.
We have had numerous successes over the last 12 months, from ensuring offshore workers were exempt from self-isolation to the restart of domestic and international cruise. We know that Covid isn’t going away, we are all learning to live with it and throughout this Journal you will see how our team has worked with governments and institutions to deliver for our members on a range of issues facing the sector.
Action to slow down climate change took on an even greater significance this year with the COP26 meeting.
Ahead of the gathering in Glasgow, the Chamber announced its position that it wants the shipping industry to be net zero by 2050.
The current aim of cutting shipping’s emissions by 50% just doesn’t go far enough and it is imperative that the IMO commits to a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 as soon as possible.
As well as adjusting the 2050 target, we also need to look at technical solutions and infrastructure. We know the benefits of shore power but in the short-to-mid-term we are going to need to see more government investment, so the ports have the required infrastructure for new, greener ships.
You will read more about the issue of Market Based Measures and carbon pricing in Anna Ziou’s section later in the Journal, but we know we need to act now to create incentives for people to act quickly. The Chamber will continue to work through the Carbon Working Group on the best solutions for our members.
One thing we have been clear about at the Chamber is the need for global solutions to the decarbonisation debate. Shipping is international by nature and we must avoid regional or national regulations which will harm the sector.
We must also ensure that the transition to a greener shipping future is a just transition for the people working in the industry. We need to invest in skills and retraining, making sure we continue to not only attract the best and the brightest, but retain those people already working in the sector. It is vital we utilise the personnel we already have and equip them with the new skills they need as businesses change in the coming years.
In the next 12 months there will be a huge focus within the Chamber on decarbonisation issues and we have strengthened our expertise in this area with the addition of Onder Canbulat to the Policy team. We will continue to push the IMO on net zero targets and making a decision on MBMs. Time is short but everyone at the Chamber is clear about what needs to be done to make our industry even cleaner and greener.
After the furore caused by the decision to leave the European Union in 2016 and the resulting turbulent years, 2021 has seen Brexit knocked from the headlines with things being rather in limbo.
January 1st 2022 saw new changes in how we deal with trade with our European partners. We have seen some initial teething issues, but we are hopeful these will be short-lived.
As we set a new course for ourselves, we need to make sure we seize future opportunities and take the strategic lead as a nation and developing new trading partnerships, whilst accepting that we have to find a sustainable way of doing business with our near partners in Europe.
In March last year the world’s attention turned to Egypt as the Ever Given ship got stuck in the Suez Canal. This incident raised awareness across the globe of the critically important role ships and shipping play in moving global trade.
Throughout 2021 we saw issues with global supply chains, with bottlenecks in ports around the world. At the Chamber we worked through the Government’s Freight Council and the National Economic Recovery Taskforce which reported to the Prime Minister, and we met with Sir Dave Lewis, the government’s supply chain tsar, to advise on how the shipping sector could ease the strain where possible.
We are proud that we are sought out as experts in these areas and by working through such taskforces and council’s we can ensure that our members’ voice is heard at the very top of government.
Not only has Covid had a huge impact on our current seafarers, it has also dramatically impacted our future seafarers’ training and education.
We have played our role in the Maritime Skills Commission which was set up to ensure the UK’s maritime industry has the talent to serve the sector and compete with the rest of the world. A key priority for us for 2022 will be to develop our own proposals for the Commission which not only reflect the views of the shipowners but give the Commission practical steps on what is needed to ensure we have a vibrant, skilled talent pool in the future.
In November the Maritime & Coastguard Agency confirmed a further six-month extension to the
Maritime Training (SMarT) Fund, for cadets unable to finish their training due to Covid, something the Merchant Navy Training Board has long been calling for. We are pleased that the MCA listened to our plea to provide additional funding to support our cadets through this difficult time. We know this 6-month extension will benefit those cadets whose training has been severely impacted by Covid and this was a major policy win for the Chamber in 2021.
Tonnage Tax has caused a renaissance in shipping since its introduction in 2000 and it was in urgent need of updating to respond to changing trends in shipping and to better protect and promote maritime UK and global Britain.
In the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced changes to the Tonnage Tax regime which will strengthen the UK Flag, encourage innovation in the offshore energy sector and attract international investment. There is more work to be done to promote the employment and training of seafarers, and broadening the regime, but it is testament to the work of the Chamber and our policy team that we secured such a positive outcome for our members.
Nationality and Borders Bill
Our engagement with government spans right across Whitehall. We spent months lobbying the Home Office on the new Nationality and Borders Bill. The original draft of the Bill left open the possibility that seafarers may be convicted for saving the life of someone in distress.
After extensive lobbying from the UK Chamber of Shipping, the Government tabled an amendment to the Bill which will exempt seafarers from criminal prosecution for helping rescue people at sea.
And this is what the Chamber is here for. It is here to protect our seafarers and our members, promote what they do and lobby government on their behalf.
As we look forward, I want the Chamber to become even more engaged with our membership, to develop and deepen our relationship with ministers and politicians and for the industry to seize the opportunities ahead of us.
We know the last two years have been challenging, like no others in recent memory, but we started 2022 on a positive note with our Annual Dinner in London. It was great to see so many people enjoy what was a wonderful evening and we hope this is the start of
the return to more face-to-face events, whilst still utilising the hybrid options which have worked so well and which have benefitted so many of our members who are based all across the UK.
What the last few years have taught me is the only constant we can be sure of is change. The degree of change recently has accelerated, and at the Chamber we will continue to become more agile and proactive to drive the change that our members and industry need.
One change at the Chamber is the handover of Presidency. John Denholm is stepping down after two years and will be handing the baton over to Graham Westgarth.
John has done so much for the Chamber at one of the toughest times in recent memory and he moves on with our heartfelt thanks for all that he has done and our congratulations for receiving a CBE in the New Years Honours List.