Poseidonia 2022: shipping confronted with challenges in a Brave New World situation

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

This week, starting Monday June 6 and through to Friday June 10, will see once more the bi-annual Poseidonia get-together happen – after a 4-year lapse (due to the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing rules prevailing in 2020). A multi-layered event expected to track the progress of shipping and to celebrate the heyday of its – large:  some 21% of global tonnage, 54% of the EU tonnage – Greek-ownership component. To be noted then even before the official opening of Poseidonia 2022, the Commissioner in charge of Transport (which covers Shipping in Brussels), Romanian Adina Valean has arranged to give a Press Conference that is awaited with some trepidation

Her official remit covers – among other, Brussels-sounding responsibilities (“developing a comprehensive strategy for sustainable and smart mobility”, “modernizing transport systems with a strong focus on digital innovation”) – several aspects of shipping. To wit negotiating global emissions reduction with [the] IMO; contributing to a zero-pollution goal, mitigating the impact of transport on the environment from emission reductions to air and water; working to extend the Emissions Trading System to the maritime sector; promoting alternative sustainable transport fuels for […] maritime transport. Just enumerating such responsibilities sets the table in a demanding way for shipping coming out the twin pandemic and supply-chain crises. But… out of the pan, into the fire?

It goes without saying that the challenges (and opportunities, which by and large come along challenges in shipping) arising from the ongoing Ukraine crisis that came so soon after the preceding shocks, the surge of freight rates but also of risks associated with European sanctions to Russian trade as well as with hazardous navigation in a growing number of sea-lanes (risks translate directly in increases to insurance premiums), guarantee that Ms. Valean will face a measure of concerned questioning on such topics. The sanctions dimension is of special interest since the idea of freezing transport of targeted Russian goods by ships of Greek, Cypriot or Maltese ownership (or even control) is not far good off the table. At the same time the issue of shipping taxation is a matter regularly revisited (at least, the EU Commission is regularly poked to revisit the issue). Still, these who prepare to raise such issues for the Valean Press Conference may well end feeling disenchanted: the EU Commissioner will most probably limit herself to the restrictive reading of her remit we have penned-in. But the major underlying concerns for Greek shipping will still be there: it will be even more interesting to see how (brand-new) chairperson of the Union of Greek Shipowners Melina Travlos will take the stand at the close of the week-long Poseidonia 2022. Which will, most probably, run its course with two Greek-owned tankers still held by Iranian authorities at the Gulf, after being boarded and seized by ‘Guards of the Revolution”: a test-case of the challenges and risks ahead for shipping. A Brave New World situation, if ever there was one.