Policy update from the UK Chamber - May 2014

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The latest in our regular round-up of the biggest policy news and activity from the last month at the UK Chamber.

Environment:


There have been some developments on the issue of ballast water this month. The 2004 IMO Ballast Water Management Convention allows administrations to grant exemptions and HELCOM (the Baltic Sea) and OSPAR (NE Atlantic; North Sea/English Channel) issued Guidelines, which were approved in October 2013, expanding primarily on the methodology for risk assessment. In addition, the Danish Environment Ministry recently issued a report that outlines various transitional measures, associated cost and aims to identify which types of vessels are more likely to be granted an exemption; identifying ships – typically RoRo or RoPAX – calling at only two ports on a route or in very few cases, ships triangulating between three ports in a limited geographical area. 

With regard to other intra-regional traffic the report stated that they could theoretically benefit from exemptions, but in general the operational pattern of coastal traffic is considered too complex and does not readily lend itself for inclusion in an exemption scheme, as the routes almost always include more than two ports. While we welcome this initiative we believe that the draft Guidelines are burdensome and unworkable.

In late April the UK Chamber held a meeting with the MCA. While the UK will consider granting exemptions, the fact that any risk assessment methodology will be based on the HELCOM/OSPAR Guidelines creates concerns as it will considerably limit the number of such exemptions issued. Another issue of concern is the fact that the MCA is only now just looking at the list of invasive species meaning that if the Convention comes into force this year, the exemption procedure will be significantly delayed.

Given the importance of this issue, it is paramount that the industry brings pressure on HELCOM/OSPAR to accept the concept of general exemptions based on the biogeographic areas as suggested by the IMO. We are working with ECSA to facilitate a meeting with other interested parties to gain a unified position.

Security and defence:


The Ministerial launch of the new National Strategy for Maritime Security took place at the UK Chamber on 13 May 2014 attended by Stephen Hammond and Mark Francois, colleagues in Government and chamber members. The implementation of the strategy will now be progressed across government with industry input through the Shipping Defence Advisory Committee and the newly formed National Maritime Security Committee (Industry). The national approach will be used to influence the EU strategy document.

Employment:


The European Committee on Safe Seas and Prevention of Pollution from Ships (COSS) held a meeting in Brussels on 23 April, following a briefing session hosted by the Maltese Permanent Representation in Brussels. COSS was advised of the progress made in the Philippines towards STCW compliance, which included a new quality standards system and steps taken to avoid conflicts of interests. However, it was stated that the Philippines would need to address remaining deficiencies relating to the monitoring of schools, management level courses and the maintenance of training equipment in colleges.

The European Commission will invite the Philippines to report to COSS every three or four months, whilst EMSA will carry out more frequent inspections in the Philippines. Whilst the immediate threat of de-recognition of STCW Certificates of Competency appears to have receded, it has not disappeared altogether.

Safety:


The MCA intends to embark on a consultation through the UK Chamber to gather evidence to support proposed improvements to lifeboat safety. Overweight lifeboats due to water ingress, failures of release hooks and cables and the over running of davit winches, coupled with poor drills have all led to accidents and several fatalities in recent years. There is also concern about the excessive height that life boats and rescue boats have to be launched from, notably in car carriers, which lead to difficulties in deploying them in rough weather. The chamber will remain fully engaged to ensure that the issues are evidence based and that new proposals are pragmatic and offer a safer alternative, before any submission is made to the IMO by the UK.

The UK Chamber is also represented at a review by the MCA of MGN1823, which will consolidate current regulation and tighten up certain stability and fire prevention standards for new such vessels. The work has been ongoing for some years, causing difficulties with operators who are procuring new vessels. In these cases the MCA has reviewed plans on a case by case base. Under the new regime, these is concern that the MCA will require all new plans to be approved before construction starts, which noting their current lack of resource, may cause delays. The chamber members involved are otherwise content with the direction of travel.

Elsewhere, a round up of MAIB reports was part of the agenda at the UK Chamber’s recent Safety and Environment Committee. Two of the five incidents involved larger merchant ships at night and were due to the officer of the watch falling asleep. At the same time the bridge alarm had not been set. This represents a continuing problem in vessels where there is just a master and chief mate that watchkeep and, prior to sailing, both are required to be up in harbour, leading to fatigue. It was noted as a consequence the MAIB would be pushing through the MCA and EC to ensure that such vessels always had at least two watchkeepers, in addition to the master, in order to reduce such instances of fatigue. Whilst this reaction is understandable, the MAIB approach does not fully recognise the requirement under SOLAS for both a lookout at night and a functional bridge alarm. The UK Chamber will monitor ongoing developments.

Ferry and cruise:


The European Commission has published a commentary on the EU Cabotage Regulation which, among other things, stated that contracts for lifeline ferry services could be let for up to 12 years and that routes could be ‘bundled’ into a single contract for purposes of efficiency. Both points are of direct relevance to Scottish ferry services however the new commentary is in conflict with the Commission’s State Aid Guidelines, which limit contracts for subsidised services to six years. The UK Chamber is seeking to ascertain which document reflects the Commission’s view.

The Ferry and Cruise Panel have also taken up an offer from the NSPCC to review child safeguarding procedures on those domestic ferry services that carry unaccompanied child passengers and a meeting will take place in early June.

Elsewhere, a short written submission to the Government’s inquiry into transport resilience during the winter 2013 – 2014 was made by the UK Chamber this month. Ferry services were disrupted on many routes and the submission consequently made clear that reliability and service performance levels were an issue for the ferry operating companies themselves and not one on which the chamber could comment.

Scotland:


The UK Chamber’s Head of Taxation and Ferry & Cruise met officials from the Scottish Government’s tax and immigration policy units on 29 April, and briefed them fully on the industry’s concerns.

The Scottish Minister of Transport, Keith Brown, has offered to participate in another chamber event focussed on the forthcoming referendum, while HM Treasury has also offered to provide a briefing for UK Chamber members on the economic issues associated with independence.

Brussels activity:


The last in the series of meetings with DG Competition ahead of the EP elections and nomination of the new EU Competition Commissioner was held this month. During the meeting it emerged that DG Competition do not seem to be looking for new cases as a matter of policy. In practice, there would be a new work plan in the New Year under the new Commissioner. Full review might well be launched if the new regime had a clear aim that he/she wished to achieve from that – eg hunting out abuses, fundamental change of approach, etc – given the position we were now all at.

The Commission has decided to appoint Magda Kopczinska as Director 'Innovative & Sustainable Mobility' in DG Move. The UK Chamber has worked with her very closely in her current capacity as Head of the Maritime Transport and Logistics Unit. In her new role Magda will be dealing with larger cross-transport modes issues and will no longer work in Maritime Transport section headed by Fotis Karamitsos.

As part of the currently ongoing EU Ports Policy review the Commission intends to come forward with guidance for encouragement and establishment of the environmentally differentiated port infrastructure charges. The initiative could potentially lead to a standardized evaluation of ship’s efficiency performance going beyond the requirements of the current legislation imposed on the shipping sector, which is unhelpful. The UK Chamber will be raising this concern with the Commission.

An informal meeting of Ministers for maritime affairs this month was also attended by the Secretary-General of the IMO and discussions centred on effective implementation of IMO conventions. The EU’s Maritime Transport Policy until 2018 and outlook to the 2020 mid-term review was also on the agenda and the UK Chamber fed in substantially into these debates. Key messages included the need to achieve and maintain a stable fiscal environment; that the right balance should be found between the employment of EU and non-EU seafarers; and that any environmental measures imposed on shipping, should be well balanced and, in should apply globally.