Regulations ideally need to be global, to reflect the borderless nature of the ocean itself.

San Francisco, California was host to the Economist’s second World Ocean Summit at the end of February, a three-day event designed to highlight the risks bought about by ocean degradation and help shape debate about governance of the ocean.

Attended by global leaders from government, business, international organisations, NGOs, think tanks and academia, the summit focused on the increasing role of the ocean as an economic frontier, the importance of sustainability and the issue of governance. Among the speakers at the conference was WWL’s CEO Christopher Connor, who participated in a panel discussion entitled Governance in the21st Century. 

Among all the activities taking place on- and under-the world’s oceans, shipping has one of the biggest impacts. According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations’ global regulator of the shipping industry, 90 per cent of all the world’s goods are carried by sea. And although shipping is by far the most energy efficient transport method, it still leaves an environmental footprint that cannot be ignored.

The issue, according to the panel, is the wide ranging disparities within regional regulation of ocean activities and the fragmented and poorly coordinated raft of treaties, agreements and laws that make up present-day ocean governance.

Connor countered that view
by saying that the IMO, backed up by the powerful environmental agendas of the US and EU, has made great strides in regards to shipping’s environmental issues. He went on to emphasise that there is still a great deal left to be done.

In order to truly succeed
, Connor continued, regulations ideally need to be global, to reflect the borderless nature of the ocean itself. In addition, enforcement is key. No matter how stringent regulations are, he argued, if they cannot or are not beingen forced they will not have the desired impact.

Enforcement is also key to the development of new technologies to make environmental progress possible, Connor added.  Without proper enforcement investors and entrepreneurs cannot trust that the markets for their products will materialise.

The main issue today, according to Connor , is the lack of awareness of the size of the issue. Currently, European compliance testing for sulphur emissions is in the range of 1 out of 250 to 1 out of 1000 vessels, or around 0.2%. Of those tested, about half are found to be in violation. Unless regulations are enforced, the competiveness of responsible industry will be under threat. As will the health of the world’s oceans. 

During the Summit, WWL launched the Trident Alliance, a group of like-minded companies in the shipping industry, dedicated to enforcing emissions quotas. The alliance calls for robust enforcement for the benefit of the environment, human health and responsible energy.