Ferry Business - Spring/Summer 2021

8 8 V IEWPOINT Virtual meetings offer silver lining to Covid cloud The pandemic has forced the International Maritime Organization to change its processes, but this has bought vital time in the race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions A nyone who has been engaged with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) process to develop new maritime regulations knows that it is a protracted exercise. For some, this is a source of great frustration. However, I have always maintained that, while it is easy to point to flaws in regulations and ask what regulators were thinking, it is actually very difficult to develop robust, universally applicable, fair and feasible requirements that also fit in with all the other more or less functional existing requirements. This process must be allowed to take time, or we could end up with unworkable outcomes. On the other hand, much of the time spent at IMO meetings can be relatively unproductive. Three disagreeing member states might spend hours developing a compromise over some minute detail, while the other 300 people in the room are left idle. Furthermore, issues are dealt with somewhat sequentially. For many delegates, this means that there is often a good few days’ wait before their own key issues are raised. Sometimes your most pressing matter doesn’t make it to the top of the chair’s pile and is summarily deferred to the next session six or 12 months later. Enter into this mix a paralysing virus. The IMO was admirably quick to postpone upcoming meetings, and eventually launched its own format for virtual meetings – at first, they were of a more informal nature, but later the organisation was able to take formal decisions. Many other United Nations institutions have still not been able to agree on holding virtual meetings at all and have not been in session for a year. In what could have been a perfect storm, Covid-19 hit just as the IMO embarked on its arguably most ambitious regulatory exercise ever – mandatory greenhouse gas requirements for new and existing ships which were to be finalised by June 2021 before entering into force in 2023. With an impossibly short By Johan Roos, Interferry