This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
When I took the helm at Interferry in April 2017, my brief from the board was to drive even greater growth of our networking and lobbying mission. As the only association representing the worldwide ferry industry, we were already recognised as the global voice of a crucial, yet sometimes underrated or overlooked, sector of shipping.
After 14 years helping to lead transformation at world-class BC Ferries in my native Canada, I welcomed the challenge of further accelerating Interferry’s development from its 1976 US-based networking origins to its emergence as a truly international influencer.
Implemented in 2017, our ‘Stronger Together’ strategy has provided a powerful launch pad for the next phase of this journey. It recognised the need to increase our membership and thereby the validity of our interventions on a tide of regulatory proposals. By looking beyond our established recruitment regions, such as North America, Europe and Australia, our current membership has risen to more than 250 ferry operators and suppliers in some 40 countries.
Now Interferry is poised to reach new levels with a strategic plan for 2020-2022 that extends our vision of making a difference within the industry and society as a whole. The plan was drafted during our board meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark this June, which started by paying tribute to the collective efforts of our specially formed domestic safety, security and regulatory committees.
To achieve our far-reaching core objectives, we will enhance our pursuit of safety improvements and membership growth in developing nations; boost resources to ensure regulatory success; and develop communications activity to emphasise the size and worldwide economic impact of the overall ferry industry. Immediately following final approval at the board meeting, the plan will be presented at our 44th annual conference in London, UK this October. The conference is fully previewed elsewhere in these pages (read more on page 42), so I will simply add that it will reveal compelling insights on the industry’s future, where Interferry intends to play an ever-increasing role.
Developments during 2019 certainly encourage me to believe that we are heading for new heights in our networking and lobbying relationships. In particular, recent dealings with authorities such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where we have proactive consultative status, have underlined our growing connection with industry leaders.
In June, Session 101 of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) finally agreed to establish a new output on measures to improve domestic ferry safety in developing countries. The formal proposal came from China and owed much to Interferry’s advocacy and cooperation with the IMO over many years.
A much more defined work plan will now include the development of model regulations. Backed by the IMO secretary general, the initiative is being overseen by the IMO’s head of special projects, who pointedly asked for our continued contribution when we met just ahead of the MSC decision.
The decision also came soon after two fact-finding visits to the Philippines by a team from Interferry’s FERRYSAFE project. Prompted by dramatic improvements in the country’s ferry safety record (previously the worst in the world), we will now develop ‘lessons learned’ guidance to help the IMO and other developing nations do the same. The visits to Manila in March and Cebu in May involved 66 stakeholder interviews, ferry crossings, shipyard visits and meetings with the authorities. More details can be found in a special report on page 104 of this issue, which was written by FERRYSAFE team member Johan Roos, our regulatory affairs director.
Meanwhile the IMO is also embracing Interferry’s continued interventions on environmental and other safety proposals. When the June MSC meeting approved new draft interim guidelines on ro-pax fire safety, we voiced widely supported arguments that more discussion was vital to avoid unproven construction recommendations.
June was further notable for our meeting with the European Maritime Safety Agency’s new executive director Maja Kostelac, which included a tour of the 24/7 operations and security centre that monitors all vessels in European waters. We were very impressed by its drone technology for detecting pollution spills – and by its affirmation of the highest respect for Interferry as a key participant in regulatory debate.
In May, Session 74 of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC74) confirmed new focus on potential short-term greenhouse gas (GHG) measures including stricter Energy Efficiency Design Index, shaft power and speed requirements. We have formed a GHG working group that will present sector-specific proposals at November’s GHG intersessional meeting. The ferry sector is already setting the industry’s pace on emissions targets, especially through the uptake and planned installation of battery, hybrid and hydrogen power.
MEPC74 also agreed to work on harmonised rules for discharge water from exhaust gas scrubbers to counter a trend for member states imposing restrictions without scientific basis. Ahead of a 2021 project deadline, Interferry will continue to insist that any new requirements should be based on scientific facts and that existing, currently compliant installations should not be penalised under any future changes.
Beyond regulatory support, in July we announced our endorsement of the charity Mercy Ships, whose hospital ships provide healthcare in the developing world. We will be promoting its search for volunteer deck and engine personnel through our membership communications and at our annual conference.
Against this backdrop of cohesion and togetherness, I have every confidence that Interferry is set for a new era of achievement as a leading influencer in the shipping and wider world.
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