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[Check Against Delivery]
Vice President of the European Commission
World shipping: regulating effectively together to promote open trade
Posidonia 2014 opening ceremony
Athens, 2 June 2014
Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen
It’s a great pleasure to be with you at the opening ceremony of the most important shipping event of the year.
I’m also happy to be back in Athens – and to see the international shipping community so well represented today. It sums up the global nature of this sector.
Given that shipping carries around 90% of world trade, we need it for the global economy to function. In fact, the shipping industry could be called a barometer of the world economy.
But global does not mean “no rules”.
If a ship moves cargo from Rotterdam to Panama, the same rules should apply throughout the voyage, whether they relate to fuel emissions, construction and safety standards, or to crew working conditions.
Otherwise the operation becomes inefficient and unnecessarily complex.
That doesn’t help international shipping as a whole, which faces many issues that are global in nature:
Volatile energy markets, climate change, ship safety, piracy and other security concerns, crew issues, technology innovation: these are just a few in a long list of challenges that we need to work hard, and together, to overcome.
With ship safety, for example, any accident has a knock-on effect. In Europe, we have suffered enough shipping disasters over the years.
We know only too well the negative impacts of loss of life and environmental pollution, and how public and political pressure can build up as a result.
So many vessels transit through European waters every day that it is clearly in our interests to make sure those ships are safe.
That is a responsible concern that every flag state should share, because it works both ways.
In all these areas, we need global action for this industry to succeed.
But given how highly internationalised shipping is, regulation is not always the first answer. It is as much about partnership and cooperation: between owners, operators, regulators and everyone else involved in the sector.
We need to work together, because we’re all in it together.
Ladies and gentlemen
One of my driving principles in transport policy has been to remove barriers. Europe has always been economically strong and successful when it does this.
That means physical barriers, of course, but also other more hidden barriers - barriers to efficiency, fairness and transparency.
Barriers to the free movement of people, services, goods and capital.
The same principle applies to the global economy and to a global industry like shipping – which also needs open markets and equal conditions for competition.
It also applies to ports, which are vital for maintaining a competitive global shipping chain because they are so often the entry and exit points for trade. This is the rationale behind the Commission’s proposal for modernising Europe’s ports, to improve performance and efficiency across Europe – and also cut costs.
Brussels is often used as a synonym for "regulator", accused of tying up the industry in red tape for no good reason.
In defence, I would say that regulation is needed at times where long-standing barriers need to be eliminated in the wider interests of industry and citizens.
But in fact, I tend to prefer less intervention if at all possible, and more independence of economic operators in an atmosphere of fair competition.
That, along with a stable long-term legal environment so that everyone involved knows where they will stand in the years ahead.
So I have not come here today to recommend more regulation, and particularly not any more EU regulation. There are other paths we should take.
European shipping policy stems from the fact that shipping is a global business. Our priority should be to develop globally-aligned rules and standards for shipping that are implemented effectively, especially in safety, security and the environment.
Ideally, these should be set by the International Maritime Organization. In this area, you already know that I am a very willing and open partner.
As regulators and industry, it is not only our collective responsibility to make sure global regulation functions effectively but also to stay ahead of developments – and not just wait for the next accident to happen.
Even more important is to make sure that the common standards are applied and enforced around the world. And here I should sound a note of caution.
If the rules that we make are not effective, or enforced, then we will certainly feel public pressure for unilateral and regional regulation. With that comes the danger of higher costs as well as more risk to safety in the world’s shipping lanes.
Let me give you one example.
If we failed to agree on measures to regulate CO2 emissions in shipping, regional go-alones would have a distorting effect on international shipping markets.
It would also undercut and undermine the efforts being made by the entire global shipping industry to achieve meaningful cuts in CO2 emissions.
But the same example also shows that we can work together – when the shipping sector managed to agree the Energy Efficiency Design Index, before any other pressures came to bear.
We plan now to continue building on that success, naturally within the IMO, by setting up a global system to collect data on fuel consumption and emissions.
The other obvious area where we need to make progress together at the IMO is passenger ship safety. It’s time to improve the existing regulations on the stability of passenger ships.
Recent accidents show how important it is to keep a passenger ship stable when it becomes damaged – not least to minimise the knock-on effect on the wider public and political agenda
The IMO should not be a playground for national interests or for countries to play power games. Those kinds of attitudes won’t help us get rid of old-fashioned protectionism and sub-standard services.
There are much larger – global – issues to deal with.
To my mind, the IMO is the one forum where everyone involved in the complex world of shipping should work together for the interests of the sector itself.
This is not about carving out turf or influence. But it is about helping each other.
It is about getting the job done ourselves, before forces outside shipping set the agenda and
It is the way for us to make sure that the world’s maritime community uses safer and cleaner ships and that conditions are equal for everyone to compete.
It is how international shipping can prosper: how it can maintain and improve its high levels of service, safety, environmental protection and operational efficiency.
In short, quality shipping – on a global scale.
Thank you for your attention.