Sunday 11 March 2012


A politician (be it on regional, national, or international, read EU level) is an individual always eager to please
the "green lobbyists", because it will bring votes and money. That same political individual will, prompted by his or her "green" masters, make big noises about atmospheric pollution allegedly emitted by shipping or aviation. The latter starts now to bite back in the form of protests by the Chinese and other national governments.
The chances are that shipping around one's coast will be mostly foreign owned and even if it flies the national
ensign, it will not be to much of a problem to demonise it in the eyes of a gullible public. It would not be like taking on the before mentioned aviation industry or the motoring lobbies, which will revenge with their own campaigns and threaten the withdrawal of political support or a trade war (aviation). Shipping is a far easier target. Politicians, eagerly assisted by "managers" of charity institutions like Oxfam and the like, wishing to load shipping with new regulations on emissions can be assured that the general public will not associate the costs of goods in their shops with the enormous costs borne by marine transport having to comply with new emission regulations. It is not like a "green tax" on energy bills (one of the many rip offs by the political elite and their associates)  or an additional rise on petrol  prices, which are directly punishing the end user and will
be bitterly resented. The costs loaded on shipping will be indirect and unseen by the voters who unwillingly
depend on shipping for their food and fuel. All of which makes shipping a tempting target. Politicians, like the green and even greener members of the European Parliament or the regulators of the European Commission,
sometimes treat shipping as if it was discretionary, or a sort of luxury item which one did not really have to use. They can stand up and make wild emotive and ill-founded statements about the way in which people who live close to the coasts have their health menaced by the emissions of passing ships. They can not and do not
make any effort to substantiate their absurd claims about the "health benefits" of up to 34 billion euros which would be brought to these suffering populations by reducing sulphur to 0.1% by 2020. How on earth can such a figure be arrived at, and how could such savings ever be proved?
The targeting of the maritime industry by zealous campaigners is not disconnected by the way shipping has fallen out of the public view. An industry which, in awareness terms, is largely over the horizon and more vulnerable than one that remains visible. So a politician or a campaigner with a cause to promote (and a wallet to fill) can mount an attack on the shipping industry in the knowledge that he or she will have their words assiduously published by a press not better or even less informed than they are, for the benefit of a public unlikely to contradict this view.
The shipping industry will be accused of "delaying tactics" when it fails to leap to attention and rush to comply
with the ridiculous demands of colossal costs in impossible timescales. Its reasonable objections will be taken as evidence that the shipping industry is an irredeemable polluter, playing fast and loose with the health of the general public. It is then up to the industry to try and respond to these hysterical accusations in a way that does not play into the hands of its accusers.
In a reasonable and rational world, the very considerable efforts of the maritime industry to design more energy efficient and thus more environmentally friendly ships would be a perfectly reasonable answer to
these unreasonable demands. There is, after all, little to be ashamed of in the astonishing technical progress that continues to be made, and which is largely financed out of the modest profits that shipping companies make. There is so much that the industry can be genuinely proud of, from its technical advances to the
operational improvements which are being made constantly. But the world, it often seems, is neither rational
nor reasonable, which is why the shipping industry that is so essential to most people on this planet has to work so hard to defend itself.
As an afterthought: If these same politicians who seem to be so concerned about the health of the people should show the same "backbone" and fortitude in fighting piracy on the high seas, the lives of the seamen should be a lot safer.

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