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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

POINTS OF VIEW

This has been a week of the unconventional in the shipping industry! A shortage of steel restricting container manufacture threatens a shortage of containers which could hamper the current liner boom, according to Sea Containers boss James Sherwood. Eurotunnel’s rebel shareholders are in the ascendant (promising new management and the first ever dividends to shareholders) with individuals now holding 65% of the stock (43% end 2002) while institutional shareholders now hold just 29% (51% end 2002) – banks still hold the remaining 6%. Government crisis in Cote d’Ivoire after allegations of irregularities in the award of a 15-year management contract for the growing Vridi container terminal to France’s Bollore Group. All on the same Lloyd’s List front page.

And then more of the unconventional with some in-depth discussion on the issue of double hulls and whether the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee’s next meeting in May will make them compulsory or not … for bulk carriers.

For tankers, or course, compulsory double hulls were pretty much a fait accompli subsequent to the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and the US’s unilateral OPA 90 legislation which ushered in the era of the double hull tanker in 1990. Double hull tankers had become a political imperative as well as a sound way of reducing oil pollution from low impact collisions and groundings. While there was a general rejection of the US’s unilateral move, there was no real argument against the double hull tanker as a way of reducing oil pollution. The IMO’s double hull amendments to MARPOL 73/78 were adopted in 3/92, less than two years after OPA 90, and entered into force in 7/93. Some have argued that the speed with which the double hull tanker became compulsory worldwide meant that some technical discussion on the design of the new generation of tanker had to be rushed.

Discussions at the IMO on double hull bulk carriers are coming to a head with MSC 78 in May being the ‘crunch point’. Those involved believe that there is a genuine possibility that double hull bulk carriers will be made voluntary rather than mandatory.

The arguments put forward by naval architect Andrew G. Spyrou in a letter to Lloyd’s List have a very familiar ring to tanker owners. Double sides will create more problems than (they) will solve, no matter how prudent the owner; use only mild steel for single hull bulkers forward of the machinery space; use specific plate profiles for transverse framing and longitudinal stiffening; reduce cargo hold length; class surveys by professional class society surveyors will go a long way towards eliminating substandard maintenance of the hull structure.

The bulk carrier industry has a chance over double hulls for bulk carriers that the tanker industry never really had for tankers. Can it work with the IMO and MSC to secure the best deal for the industry, for the environment and for the seafarers?