This is a very busy time for Interferry. Last autumn we opened an office in Brussels as a base for our new executive director of European Union and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) affairs, Johan Roos, who was previously director of sustainability with Sweden’s Stena group. Having a full-time specialist in Europe has proved very effective for us because so many of the regulatory and policy decisions affecting the ferry industry are made in London and Brussels.
These issues were a major part of Johan’s work at Stena and for the past three years he has been a regular member of Interferry’s IMO delegation. Perhaps the most important role he has played so far is helping to convince IMO regulators that the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) implemented last year for tankers, bulk carriers and container ships, was not suitable for ferries. The IMO granted a two- year extension for developing a workable formula for ferries, ro-ros and cruise ships and at the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in October, Interferry will support a proposal from Sweden covering ro-pax and ro-ro cargo vessels.
Safety is also at the forefront of our activities. The shocking Costa Concordia incident was a major topic at the last meeting of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee in May. Most passenger vessel regulations apply equally to ferries and cruise ships, so Interferry is following the debate closely. Our concern is that the regulators might overreact with onerous new structural rules even if the accident investigation points to human error as the primary cause.
Brussels is involved in the safety debate and last April Interferry was invited to attend a one-day European Commission conference on the future of passenger ship safety. Notably, how to reconcile SOLAS 2009 rules with the Stockholm Agreement.
Ferry safety in developing countries is of ongoing interest to Interferry. From 2006 we have worked jointly with the IMO in efforts to reduce the horrific level of fatalities. We have staged a pilot project in Bangladesh and a safety forum for Southeast Asia was held in Indonesia last December. A Pacific Islands forum is scheduled for Fiji late this year and a third forum is being planned for Africa in 2013. We have recently been working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a branch of the World Bank that works with the private sector in developing nations – to identify countries and ferry operators that would benefit from IFC investment in safety initiatives.
All these and many other commercial, technical and political issues will be highlighted at the 37th annual Interferry conference, which takes place in Dubai from October 21-24.
An outstanding list of speakers includes MEPC chairman Andreas Chrysostomou, who will review emerging environmental regulations, Bud Darr of Cruise Lines International Association with a technical and public relations perspective on the Costa Concordia tragedy and Deutsche Bank’s Jan Olsson, who will be assessing the current and future challenges posed by global economic turmoil.
Record attendances at recent Interferry conferences underline our emergence as the voice of the ferry industry and numbers are set to be even higher at this year’s event, with hosts the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority sponsoring a 50 per cent discount for each of the first 250 delegates to register. I hope you’ll look up the details at www.interferry.com without delay and I look forward to seeing you there.