KVNR : A viable shipping industry: complex challenges
The current developments within world trade do not give cause for optimism. It is true that the global economy is growing, but world trade is failing to keep up with that growth. Recovery does not appear to be imminent and the price of oil and gas is hardly rising. While we are used to economic fluctuations, a crisis as long-lasting as this one is highly unusual. The causes are known: the reduction in growth of world trade, low oil and gas prices and overcapacity. Only the cruise industry and those shipowners involved in the construction of wind farms in open sea are doing really well.
Geo-political developments, too, give rise to concerns. There is Brexit and the potential risk of disruption of the level playing field close to home; Donald Trump’s election as president of the US and its resulting isolationist policies and the developments in China and Russia that pose a threat to the freedom of the seas, Mare Liberum.
Many of the Dutch shipowners are struggling to keep their heads above water, while at the same time facing a major sustainability challenge. Sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, ballast water, the reduction of carbon and particulate matter are all on the political agenda.
The shipowners’ community is convinced of the necessity and ability of ships’ contribution to a cleaner environment. However, finance has to be found for all of it. Nobody wants a modal shift from maritime to road transport. The KVNR, for that reason, advocates the introduction of a sustainability fund. For a start this could be used to provide finance for the installation of ballast water treatment systems.
All of our campaigns over recent years, aimed at raising interest in a maritime career among young people, continue to be very successful. In fact they are so successful that we are now experiencing a shortage of available cadetship placements for all students. Here, too, the adverse economic conditions are causing problems. In comparison to ‘shore’ internships, on-board cadetships last twice as long and are five times as expensive and we are therefore asking for cadetship subsidies. The modernisation of the structure of cadetships, by replacing the larger part of any on-board placement with simulator training, will benefit students as well as making the puzzle of finding placements less complicated.
The need to cut costs to the bone is now jeopardising employment for Dutch seafarers. In the interests of employers, those of the shipping industry and the maritime cluster in the Netherlands as a whole, we are calling for a temporary arrangement of reduced labour costs, as an addition to the arrangement already in place. If we wish to continue to have crews consisting of Dutch nationals in the fleet of the Netherlands, some support is crucial.
For many years now, the KVNR has been urging that the on-board deployment of armed private security personnel in areas where piracy is rife, be permitted. It now looks as if, after eight years of debate, the Netherlands, too, will be allowing armed private security personnel to be deployed on vessels under the Dutch flag. Hopefully, this will come to pass during 2017 in order to ensure safety for the seafarers and the cargo they ship.
In order to improve the appeal of the register of the Netherlands, the KVNR endorses a Maritime Authority, following the Danish model. Denmark is a shining example of a government where focus, service and acquisition go hand in hand. Happily, increased support for this idea is becoming more and more apparent within the entire maritime cluster.