Third Annual “Maritime Leaders Roundtable” reinforces a competitive classification sector in the UAE

Governmental authorities, and key industry decision makers, united to tackle existing industry challenges and discuss opportunities to bolster the country’s maritime landscape

Under the patronage and supervision  of the Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime (FTA), Tactics Marketing Management recently held the third annual “UAE Maritime Leaders Roundtable Discussion” at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Business Bay. This year’s rendition strategically followed the theme of “Reinforcing a Competitive Classification Sector in the UAE: Challenges and Opportunities,” to deliver industry advancing progress.

Bringing together prominent UAE maritime players from private and government sectors, discussions revolved around the status of maritime in the country and fostered plans to achieve more efficient and optimized industry standards. Given the unprecedented number of changes that global maritime sector will undergo on in the next year, the roundtable was timely in its occurrence and served as an effective platform for participants to voice suggestions that concerned authorities can use to drive the UAE’s maritime infrastructure to unparalleled heights.

The roundtable was held with significant support from Emirates Classification Society “Tasneef”, The Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport – Sharjah as being the Knowledge Partner. It was also sponsored by major maritime entities including Lloyd’s Register, ABS, DNV GL, Lukoil Marine Lubricants, WIN GD, SJR Group, Dolphin Marine and Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla. These entities were largely responsible for contributing to the unification of regional maritime leaders to collectively enhance the country’s overall maritime standing.

Striving Towards Sustainable Prosperity

H.E Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development and the Chairman of the Federal Transport Authority for Land and Maritime stated, “Transparency and credibility are among a number of significant values that the FTA prioritizes, and this doesn’t just apply to our internal operations. The roundtable’s objective of enhancing maritime, by uniting the industry’s top decision makers, effectively aligns with the FTA’s desire to uphold integrity at the forefront of our operations and communications. The open dialogue that was sparked today, in regards to topical issues which face the sector, and potential to overcome these challenges, will undoubtedly be taken into serious consideration.”

The continual improvement of infrastructure of land and maritime transport is a prerequisite for the success of any nation, and FTA has strongly emphasized this in the UAE’s endeavors to build its economy and develop its society. Last year, the FTA joined the Convention of Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) to reinforce these values. Similarly, this past summer witnessed the announcement of a new draft law that will be executed in 2020, to improve maritime operations in the UAE and give 100% ownership to citizens seeking to own vessel companies. Moreover, the country’s prior category-b standing, and current repeat bid in the International Maritime Organization, are all invaluable contributing factors in the continuous development of local maritime.

H.E. Eng.Hessa Al Malek, Executive Director of Maritime Transport at FTA clarified saying, “The UAE’s elite maritime standing offers no room for complacency. The country’s climb in stature has been dependent on both innovation and a proactive approach, and the same applies to the maritime sector. By remaining pragmatic and assessing the international and regional markets, the FTA is constantly monitoring industry progress. This has enabled us to make strategic decisions by determining what changes and implementations can or need to be made, and then accordingly carrying these out; likewise, the roundtable is becoming instrumental in our approach. On a yearly basis, it gathers key industry figures, who are vital in the advancement of the sector, to give us direct feedback that we subsequently use to build upon the UAE’s permanency as one of the most renowned ports across the globe.”

Clearing Communication Channels

With the theme of the roundtable pertaining to classification, it was only fitting that representatives from some of the world’s most reputable class societies – ABS, DNV GL, Lloyd’s Register –  were in attendance. The rapid evolution of the industry and ultimately the world, has driven class to primarily advocate similar values, with digitalizing and decarbonizing the shipping sector seemingly at the forefront.

Darren Leskoski, Vice President, Middle East and Africa, American Bureau of Shipping explained, “For decades, ABS has worked alongside industry to tackle the most pressing technical, operational and regulatory challenges. This has reinforced our commitment to setting standards that aid the marine and offshore industries with keeping safety principles and security at the forefront of responsible operations. We understand that challenges are ever-growing in our constantly evolving industry, which is why we continue to innovate in an attempt to roll out smarter modes of operation that enable further excellence. As we move into an era where remote survey becomes increasingly practical and class is able to base inspection decisions on data, we can focus more precisely on the areas that need attention, increasing efficiency of the process and asset availability for owners. Innovations like these will be vital in our journey of improving safety levels across maritime and offshore, while simultaneously improving the commercial operations and flexibility for our members, clients and other industry stakeholders.”

Pawan Sahni, Business Development Director of DNV GL Maritime Middle East chimed in saying, “Today’s assembly was certainly topical and timely. It is always a pleasure to connect with the industry, and the roundtable serves as another connective platform for both networking and industry development. While it may sound cliché, I’m certain that other class societies would also agree, our clients are certainly our most valuable assets. Thus, as service providers, being able to remain receptive and hear out the concerns, inquiries, and suggestions of our customers, allows us to work towards formulating effective solutions with the appropriate flag states that better satisfy these clients. This is of the utmost priority, especially given the industry shift which are currently underway, and DNV GL is firmly committed to maintaining our focus on these efforts.”

Classification Societies are still the Safety net within the shipping and offshore industries. IACS and its Members, the top classification societies, need to be a beacon of light setting the course ahead – with modern requirements, transparent processes and the highest quality of service.

Capt. Tony Field, Vice President Middle East & Africa, Marine & Offshore, LIoyd’s Register elaborated saying, “Digitalization is a great opportunity, but ensuring the innovations being introduced are beneficial to our industry are equally as important. In the same light, ambitious targets are admirable, but making sure the industry is able to achieve these objectives is crucial. The regulations and requirements that IMO has made known will ultimately remain in place, but formulating the implementation path that is viable for the ship-owners and operators to effectively carry out is a challenge. It is the responsibilities of all the Shipping Industries to identify an effective implementation course and class society are part of this. The roundtable was excellent in opening lines of communication on several important topics and Lloyd’s Register will closely review the findings with an objective to benefit the industry in the ME and as a whole.”

Requesting Unwavering Clarity

While Government authorities and class societies were more than willing to listen to the needs of the industry, the industry was equally encouraged to offer up their perspective. Capt. Sahar Rasti, CEO of SJR Group said, “Alignment and consistent interpretation of IMO requirements by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) is essential. The IACS has the most technical set of skills, and in terms of experience, this often exceeds that of the owners themselves. A more active advisory role by IACS would not only enhance the operations of ship owners, but it would also create the ability for operators to be more prepared for industrial transitions.”

Upon the MEPC’s committee meeting in 2015, the conclusion resulted in the decision to take a 3-year hiatus before deciding upon the eventual implementation of the sulphur cap in either 2020 or 2025. The decision (based on market analysis) that was made upon re-meeting in 2018, was that the sector would comply with the former date. Some ship owners have suggested that a lack of guidance by the IACS has been the root cause of a compliance time crunch. On the other hand, the notion of reducing sulphur emitted into the atmosphere has long been in an industry topic; meaning the argument could be made that ship owners should have been proactively preparing for such a moment. Yet the financial implications of attempting to prepare before a date had been finalized could have been far too costly for commercial operations to absorb. Taking this back and forth, cat and mouse demonstration into account, the Marasi roundtable provided a platform for effectively addressing these topics on how to better prepare for the future.

Commenting on this, Hussein ElBagouri, Managing Director of Dolphin Marine stated, “While reversing the ramifications of 2020 are implausible, greater advisory would certainly contribute to greater efficiency in the future. As an industry, we are all responsible for the development of the shipping sector. The importance of our industry is immeasurable and that should encourage us all to prioritize the 2050 GHG targets set out by the IMO. While many in the industry have felt that the 2020 sulphur cap may have been rushed, it is nevertheless a positive change which we should all embrace and learn from to better prepare for decarbonizing our industry. These same methodologies can be applied to ballast water treatment, digitization and other relevant industry issues, as long as at the end of the day, we all understand that the importance of our industry far exceeds the challenges which we must overcome to continue seeing it flourish.”

Implementing Technical Excellence

The UAE Maritime economy has long been dependent on effective, international shipping services and with the rapid pace of shipping and trade today that is all the more important. Speaking on this notion, Tarek Saad, Head of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla’s Maritime practice in the UAE, explained, “If shipping stops, everything stops. Smooth operations for all market players depend on a regulatory framework that is consistent with international standards and meets industry requirements. This includes protecting clean seas, a focus on safe operations and crew wellbeing, a competitive business environment and much more. The new Federal Maritime law will unquestionably enhance the existing industry framework, with further adjustments that dovetail with global developments as the sector continues to evolve. With this roundtable, market players are able to offer insights based on our experiences.  We are optimistic that the relevant authorities will find these guidelines helpful.”

June Manoharan, Managing Director of Lukoil Marine Lubricants DMCC commented saying, “A better understanding of customers’ operational procedures, and maintenance challenges, on the part of class societies and higher authorities will be beneficial to all. Learning is a nonstop journey and the industry’s shared efforts will foster the global maritime community. If class societies take on a more active role in interacting with suppliers to understand the in-depth technical aspects, like lubricant requirements in machineries for instance, this collaboration will help both parties (class society and oil companies) to better satisfy end-users (ship owners and operations).

Eng.Ibrahim Behairy, Managing Director of Winterthur Gas & Diesel MENA added, “Despite the many challenges which the industry faces today, I personally feel that we have never been in a stronger position. Today’s discussions regarding the industry’s shifts towards digitalization and greener operations are effective reinforcements of this opinion. The UAE has not attained its leading position without being aware of the need to embrace and adapt. However, gatherings such as today’s roundtable will continue to serve as friendly reminders that the unification of the industry should be reoccurring and consistent to ultimately maintain the industry’s sustainable growth, success and expertise.”

Behairy added, “WING GD has chosen to invest in the UAE because of its strategic location that attracts major mega ships that are our target and it’s important to collaborate with all sector’s key players in the UAE as having companies providing technological solutions in the country will contribute to enhancing the UAE’s position as a preferred destination for ships coming from all over the world.”

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