Carriage by sea at the crossroads? Many questions arising!

26 Июн

Большой друг Международной юридической службы Interlegal — Януш Федорович из Бельгии, экс-президент Международной ассоциации диспашеров, членом которой много лет является Interlegal, специально для Морского обозрения прислал актуальную статью под названием «Морские перевозки на распутье? Возникает много вопросов!», которая будет интересна читателям. Особый интерес статья вызывает рассмотрением вопросов, связанных с появлением очень крупных судов различного назначения.

Since the services Average Adjusters and Claims Consultants offer com­prise “bringing solutions to problems” at some stage of marine casualties, we may find it of interest to once more attempt surveying the present panorama of carriage of goods by sea doing so in the light of questions arising from the various sectors concerned.

What stands out in daily reports is that for most major players carriage by sea appears to have moved from “offer meeting demand” to fierce competition for bigger market shares, whilst medium and small players are increasingly struggling for survival.

The weapon in the hands of major carriers is cost reduction by means of rescheduling services, regrouping them under single control and/or in alli­ances, and by putting into service ships of ever growing size. This strategy includes an important number of newbuilding orders which adds to the al­ready existing overcapacity resulting in weak freight rates and meager profit margins, when not running a loss. So the question that naturally springs up is “on what course is carriage of goods by sea engaging?”

All these developments are deeply reshaping sea carriage and, as a result, raise specific questions from all sectors concerned.

Questions are raised by medium and small carriers operating smaller ships, who, though offering more flexibility, are increasingly under pressure from the major players and from the unstable state of the freight market. So how to survive is the challenge they face, many having already gone bankrupt.

Port operators face the challenge of accommodating mega-ships with mega- cargoes to be handled on and off in the shortest time possible with the adequate added equipment raising the question of the necessary invest­ments and of what happens when the business slows down on account of a crisis. A cause for serious concern is the risk of a mega-ship meeting with a severe casualty within a port area? Some recent casualties confirm that this concern is fully justified.

The whole chain linking the various players, from producer to end user, is put under severe strain to achieve the required cost saving “just in time” deliveries. So here too arises the question of how much more efforts and investments shall be required from them and of what to do when the business flow significantly slackens?

Yet another serious question mark concerns seafarers in as much as the use of mega-carriers results in dispensing with some two crews out of three so that seeking employment at sea becomes less and less attractive, particularly when recruiting seafarers in low wage countries becomes part of the cost reduction policy. As a damaging side effect, such a situation contributes to dry up the source from which often come shore management personnel, port pilots, surveyors and other professionals whose experience at sea is most valuable, often indispensable.

For their part. Salvors do raise major questions about how to deal with casualties which, sooner or later, are bound to occur involving mega-carriers such as 18,000/22,OOOteu container-carriers and 400,000dwt bulk carriers. How to tackle casualties occurring either in faraway places or in port? What sort of new equipment has to be developed to offload and store from ten to twenty thousand containers ora ponderous iron ore cargo? How to make such special equipment readily available in various parts of the world knowing that it will only be very occasionally required? How to finance it all? How to as­sess the merits of salvage services when costs get out of proportion with salved values and what sort of salvage awards to expect, particularly in extreme cases?

Insurers are concerned about the concentration of high values and risks on every single voyage performed by a mega-ship, whilst P&I Clubs know they will have to face yet more very heavy wreck removal costs and third-party claims.

Governments must protect their coastal environment whilst having to provide places of shelter for distressed ships, some possibly carrying danger­ous cargoes. How can these objectives be reconciled?

International organizations, legal advisers and other professionals are busy attempting to shape new laws and regulations to cover a wide variety of situations arising from the increasingly complex network of seaborne trade. How to cover it all in a coherent and intelligible way? How to bring about consensus when interests sharply diverge?

The best way of answering all the above questions is, perhaps, to raise yet another more fundamental one, namely “how far are growing ship sizes sustainable and, on balance, profitable for the whole seaborne trade com­munity?”

Perhaps more lessons should be drawn from such fairly recent casualties as:

“MSC NAPOLI” — 18th January 2007 — Hull failure, beached at Lyme Bay off the coast of Cornwall. Barely 2394 containers on board. Five months to offload them. Wreck removal completed in July 2009, i.e. 19 months after being beached in what one can consider to have been rather “favorable” conditions, given the short distance from the coast and nearby ports.

“MSC CHITRA” — 7th August 2010 — The 2314teu container carrier suffered a collision in the channel giving access to the port of Mumbai. The vessel was beached and, after developing a list when being towed her to a scrap yard, was taken out to sea and sunk in deep waters, reportedly with some 500 containers remaining on board, some of which contained dangerous chemicals. An outcome raising questions.

“RENA” — 5th October 2011 — This 3351teu container carrier stranded on reefs off Tauranga, New Zeeland, with 1368 containers on board. She broke in two on 8th January 2012. The wreck removal is still to be completed.

“VALE BEIJING” — 5th December 201 I — This 404,389 dwt bulk carrier developed a crack in port while loading her first cargo. No salvage services were required as a result ofthis alarming event which required offloading and repairs, i.e. a total of six months lost.

“COSTA CONCORDIA” (114,147grt cruise ship) — On the 13th January 2012 she struck a rock off Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, sustained a gash in her hull and came to rest on her starboard side on rocky ground. 3229 passengers and 1023 crew members reported on board. 32 dead. The ship (a total loss) was righted up on.

17th September 2013 and is still due to be lifted and towed for scrapping at a reported further cost of USD30 million. One wonders what would have happened under less “favourable…” conditions than those offered by the prevailing calm weather and the proximity of the Giglio Island, not to mention the difficulty of­fered, under emergency conditions, of evacuating such a large number of persons through narrow corridors under the questionable guidance of a multinational crew. Some experts believe this to be an impossible task, particularly when it also implies boarding the corresponding number of lifeboats.

Other severe casualties that have recently occurred could be mentioned, all leading to the same question of how to meet the challenge offered by mega- carriers of all types that will require adequate salvage equipment and experienced teams to be readily available to attend casualties in all sorts of circumstances and in various parts of the world? That is the major question! One wonders whether comments and suggestions we are hearing off late are realistically meeting the issues.

We, Average Adjusters and Claims Consultants, also face some vital ques­tions, such as:

— What sort of contribution can we offer to the resolution of problems stem­ming from present developments in the carriage of goods by sea, doing so in our field and within our capacities?

— Should we not be more present in meetings in which new approaches to such problems are sought?

— What are our proposals to really update the York-Antwerp Rules so that any new version does not turn into yet another mere compromise between diverging interests?

— What do we propose in order to deal more efficiently with all aspects of General Averages so as to correspond to the requirements of today’s sea­borne trade? How do we replace some obviously obsolete and cumbersome procedures in an age of highly developed technology requiring prompt solutions?

Needless to say, the above is far from being exhaustive but should already provide some substantial food for thought.

Автор: Janusz Fedorowicz Ex-President of International Association of Average Adjusters, Belgium

Источник: Морское обозрение. — 2014. — № 2. — С. 18.