The sun rises on safer navigation

Of note from the BIMCO website:

The sun rises on safer navigation

By Neville Smith
The prospect of safer navigation through the Strait of Malacca is something that should hearten all ship and cargo owners who use this most vital chokepoint. It is a prospect that has got a great deal closer following the landmark agreement between the Nippon Foundation and the Round Table of international shipping associations.

The agreement struck in early December does not mean an end to the issue of who pays and how much to use the Malacca but it is almost an end to the beginning. For the first time, a private sector, charitable organisation working under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is joining with industry associations to seek a workable solution.

The issue of getting users and states to contribute towards the cost of aids to navigation in the strait is not a new one but it is vital, with wider regional consequences for nation states, shipowners and regulators alike.

There continues to be a strong difference of opinion as to whether owners should be paying for security but in terms of navigational safety, the progress made at the London meeting on setting up a voluntary fund to pay for aids to navigation is a clear signal that attitudes are changing for the better.

The fund is estimated to need USD 28.2 million over the next decade for the replacement and maintenance of navigational aids. The Nippon Foundation has agreed to pay a third of the cost for the first five years and the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Greece have also pledged their support.

The path to the Round Table adding their support has been longer than many would have liked, but Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa says he is far from disappointed at the pace of progress.

In fact he takes the Round Table’s decision as evidence that he will be able to convince the wider industry that momentum is building. “We are all using the sea as a place of business. People were saying it would be impossible to realise, but in a short time got agreement to move forward. We were surprised by the speed of the response,” he says.

It’s a typically upbeat response from a notably patient man. Until recently the progress looked to have been confined to good intentions. Some in the industry were known to think that their expertise and experience positioned them best to make contributions “in kind” as well as in cash, assisting projects that support safety of navigation. Few had been prepared to put any more flesh on the bones than that, but important progress was made with a decision by INTERTANKO’s executive council to set up the fund and seek wider support, reflecting the reality that tankers make up the majority of Malacca Strait traffic.

More progress came after INTERTANKO Chairman Nicholas Fistes met Mr. Sasakawa in Athens, with the tanker association and its members expressing their willingness to contribute to fund by means of “a credible mechanism”. Not long afterwards, Greece made an even more concrete expression, donating USD 1 million to the trust administered by the IMO to manage contributions.

An informal users group was set up in Singapore to discuss the establishment of a pilotage user group, a near-miss reporting scheme and analysis of improved communication between small local craft and deep-sea shipping. In addition to helping fund the replacement and maintenance of navigational aids, the littoral states have put forward projects to cover wreck removal, building capacity to respond to pollution incidents, a demonstration project for Automatic Identification Systems on small ships and developing weather management systems.

The foundation believes the Athens meeting demonstrated that safety of navigation in the Malacca Strait could be taken over and handled by global maritime industry, which paved the way for the London meeting, where INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, BIMCO and the ICS agreed to work together formally and to hold a conference next year to devise an operational structure for contributions.

The co-operative mechanism through which both industry users and user states will contribute has yet to be finalised but Mr. Sasakawa is prepared for this part of the process – perhaps the trickiest – to take time.

He says he has long come to the conclusion that a solution was more likely using a “track two” approach, persuading the private sector to get involved rather than working government-to-government. This is an issue he feels too important to be left solely to governments. “And shouldn’t private companies be involved and making contributions?” he asks.

He is still realistic about the horse trading it will take to gain agreement from the wider industry, acknowledging its “different attitudes” towards quality standards but he feels the agreement on direction with the roundtable is enough to start work with. “We said if we had agreement with the major organisations we would be going in right direction. I have full confidence that we will be able to achieve unity going forward. We don’t need everyone to take part, as long as we get some money into the fund.”

The agreement he feels, is indicative as much as it is demonstrative. The issues are still “complicated and sensitive” he feels and any solution must be set against Article 43 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The symposium planned for next year will include the foundation, the roundtable and littoral states. Efforts will continue to bring other stakeholders into the process and Mr. Sasakawa is keen that the foundation is viewed as merely the catalyst and facilitator rather than dictating terms for its participation.

And he cautions against the user-pays model proposed for the Malacca Strait being used as a blueprint for other choke points or sensitive sea areas. “The Malacca Strait’s very heavy traffic makes it unique and we feel that it would be very difficult to apply this model of a voluntary donation. It would be difficult to get agreement and I don’t think it will have a ripple effect – at least for some time to come.”

In the meantime, more progress is being made. The next step comes on January 15 when the three littoral states – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – visit Japan to discuss the framework of the fund.

Leave aside the diplomatic niceties and the operational hurdles and Mr. Sasakawa still thinks the aids to navigation fund is an opportunity too good to pass up. The road to hell might be paved with good intentions, but the approaches to the Malacca Strait? Mr. Sasakawa sees the aids to navigation fund as “a great opportunity to let people know what the maritime industry has done for mankind” which sounds about as high an ideal as they come.

Editor’s Note: Neville Smith is Deputy Editor of Lloyd’s List. By Neville Smith
The prospect of safer navigation through the Strait of Malacca is something that should hearten all ship and cargo owners who use this most vital chokepoint. It is a prospect that has got a great deal closer following the landmark agreement between the Nippon Foundation and the Round Table of international shipping associations.

The agreement struck in early December does not mean an end to the issue of who pays and how much to use the Malacca but it is almost an end to the beginning. For the first time, a private sector, charitable organisation working under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is joining with industry associations to seek a workable solution.

The issue of getting users and states to contribute towards the cost of aids to navigation in the strait is not a new one but it is vital, with wider regional consequences for nation states, shipowners and regulators alike.

There continues to be a strong difference of opinion as to whether owners should be paying for security but in terms of navigational safety, the progress made at the London meeting on setting up a voluntary fund to pay for aids to navigation is a clear signal that attitudes are changing for the better.

The fund is estimated to need USD 28.2 million over the next decade for the replacement and maintenance of navigational aids. The Nippon Foundation has agreed to pay a third of the cost for the first five years and the Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Greece have also pledged their support.

The path to the Round Table adding their support has been longer than many would have liked, but Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa says he is far from disappointed at the pace of progress.

In fact he takes the Round Table’s decision as evidence that he will be able to convince the wider industry that momentum is building. “We are all using the sea as a place of business. People were saying it would be impossible to realise, but in a short time got agreement to move forward. We were surprised by the speed of the response,” he says.

It’s a typically upbeat response from a notably patient man. Until recently the progress looked to have been confined to good intentions. Some in the industry were known to think that their expertise and experience positioned them best to make contributions “in kind” as well as in cash, assisting projects that support safety of navigation. Few had been prepared to put any more flesh on the bones than that, but important progress was made with a decision by INTERTANKO’s executive council to set up the fund and seek wider support, reflecting the reality that tankers make up the majority of Malacca Strait traffic.

More progress came after INTERTANKO Chairman Nicholas Fistes met Mr. Sasakawa in Athens, with the tanker association and its members expressing their willingness to contribute to fund by means of “a credible mechanism”. Not long afterwards, Greece made an even more concrete expression, donating USD 1 million to the trust administered by the IMO to manage contributions.

An informal users group was set up in Singapore to discuss the establishment of a pilotage user group, a near-miss reporting scheme and analysis of improved communication between small local craft and deep-sea shipping. In addition to helping fund the replacement and maintenance of navigational aids, the littoral states have put forward projects to cover wreck removal, building capacity to respond to pollution incidents, a demonstration project for Automatic Identification Systems on small ships and developing weather management systems.

The foundation believes the Athens meeting demonstrated that safety of navigation in the Malacca Strait could be taken over and handled by global maritime industry, which paved the way for the London meeting, where INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, BIMCO and the ICS agreed to work together formally and to hold a conference next year to devise an operational structure for contributions.

The co-operative mechanism through which both industry users and user states will contribute has yet to be finalised but Mr. Sasakawa is prepared for this part of the process – perhaps the trickiest – to take time.

He says he has long come to the conclusion that a solution was more likely using a “track two” approach, persuading the private sector to get involved rather than working government-to-government. This is an issue he feels too important to be left solely to governments. “And shouldn’t private companies be involved and making contributions?” he asks.

He is still realistic about the horse trading it will take to gain agreement from the wider industry, acknowledging its “different attitudes” towards quality standards but he feels the agreement on direction with the roundtable is enough to start work with. “We said if we had agreement with the major organisations we would be going in right direction. I have full confidence that we will be able to achieve unity going forward. We don’t need everyone to take part, as long as we get some money into the fund.”

The agreement he feels, is indicative as much as it is demonstrative. The issues are still “complicated and sensitive” he feels and any solution must be set against Article 43 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The symposium planned for next year will include the foundation, the roundtable and littoral states. Efforts will continue to bring other stakeholders into the process and Mr. Sasakawa is keen that the foundation is viewed as merely the catalyst and facilitator rather than dictating terms for its participation.

And he cautions against the user-pays model proposed for the Malacca Strait being used as a blueprint for other choke points or sensitive sea areas. “The Malacca Strait’s very heavy traffic makes it unique and we feel that it would be very difficult to apply this model of a voluntary donation. It would be difficult to get agreement and I don’t think it will have a ripple effect – at least for some time to come.”

In the meantime, more progress is being made. The next step comes on January 15 when the three littoral states – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – visit Japan to discuss the framework of the fund.

Leave aside the diplomatic niceties and the operational hurdles and Mr. Sasakawa still thinks the aids to navigation fund is an opportunity too good to pass up. The road to hell might be paved with good intentions, but the approaches to the Malacca Strait? Mr. Sasakawa sees the aids to navigation fund as “a great opportunity to let people know what the maritime industry has done for mankind” which sounds about as high an ideal as they come.

Editor’s Note: Neville Smith is Deputy Editor of Lloyd’s List.

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