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Shipping organizations: The industry is an indispensable part of the IMO

Shipping organizations: The industry is an indispensable part of the IMO

The IMO needs the maritime industry when creating international shipping rules and there is nothing notable in the fact that the sector is part of the UN body and has an influence on the its work, says an industry organisation.

"In our view, the industry organizations provide indispensable technical expertise to the IMO regulatory process," reads a comment from Bimco to ShippingWatch, after NGO Transparency International slammed the IMO with criticism.
The climate battle within shipping

The IMO's MEPC (Marine Environmental Protection Committee) will meet for discussions April 9 -13.

The aim of the meeting is to agree on shipping's contribution to the Paris climate agreement, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions.

In contrast to other industries, shipping has not made fixed targets for how much and when CO2 emissions will be reduced.

IMO is under pressure from the EU to deliver a climate strategy. By this year at the latest, the IMO must have set out a plan to reduce CO2 from 2023 and onwards. If it is not successful, the EU will enter into and adopt regional legislation in this area.

The criticism was published in the summary of a report to be published by the NGO later in the spring and which will focus on two particular factors. First, that the IMO is highly influenced by the industry and secondly, that weak IMO governance risks impacting decisions on critical issues such as shipping's reductions of CO2 emissions, which are being debated both this week and next week among IMO member countries.

"Bimco welcomes a fair, external assessment of the governance processes and transparency of IMO. We think Transparency International should engage directly with IMO to better understand the governance processes within the organization before TI releases a final report. A desktop review on publicly available information would be of much less value to the global community served by the IMO," writes Bimco, which is the world's largest shipping organization.
All parties are aware of the industry's interests

Christian Hendriksen from Copenhagen Business School is currently writing a PhD on the IMO's work and believes that the new report from the NGO exaggerates the industry's influence.

"It is doubtful to suggest that companies can control the discussion simply because they are present at negotiations. All IMO representatives are aware of the industry's interests and that is taken into account when discussing the various proposals," says Hendriksen to ShippingWatch via e-mail.

He emphasizes that if shipping is an important and large sector in a country, then the industry is important to the country and therefore within the IMO, irrespective of whether the industry participates in IMO meetings or not.

We are interested in quality, well-implemented legislation, and it needs input from technical experts.

Hendriksen adds that the IMO's management is arranged differently to other UN organs and does not have the same power that Transparency International suggests that it does.

"As opposed to many other UN organs, the secretariat plays a much smaller role in the IMO because it is the countries which discuss among themselves as the IMO is a member organization. The secretariat and secretary-general can only support the work as far as possible, but they can never go against the member states," writes Hendriksen.
Danish Shipping: The problem lies elsewhere

Danish Shipping is an industry represenative. Employees from the interest organization are this week participating in a working group at the IMO regarding CO2 emissions and will be present at next week's meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), where CO2 shipping targets are a leading topic.

Like Bimco, Maria Skipper Schwenn, Executive Director of Danish Shipping, points out that the shipping industry plays an important role in the IMO's work.

"First and foremost, this is a draft and not the final report, so I can only comment on the preliminary conclusions. Danish Shipping sees the IMO as the natural and necessary global shipping regulator. We are interested in quality, well-implemented legislation, and it needs input from technical experts. I do not acknowledge the portrayal of the IMO as ineffective. The IMO has achieved many results to the benefit of the environment – including within air pollution, ballast water and scrapping, where the IMO has adopted clear rules. It takes time to secure agreement among the nations, however, the strength is that the regulation applies across the globe once agreement is reached," she writes in an e-mail to ShippingWatch.

If there is something to criticize about the IMO, it ought to be directed at another aspect of the UN body, says Skipper Schwenn.

"From the business side, we see a challenge in the lack of political will to carry out conventions, which the IMO countries themselves have been part of adopting. For example, we have seen this with the ballast water convention and the Hong Kong convention. This has created huge uncertainty for both carriers and equipment manufacturers that the rules are adopted but parties don't know when they will come into force. It is therefore important to stress that the IMO is what the member states make of it – neither more nor less."ot.