Olaf Merk, Administrator Ports and Shipping at ITF, says shipping could be held up to ridicule.
Attendees of the International Transport Forum (ITF) Summit 2016, which was held in Leipzig, Germany from May 18 to 20, expressed concern that if the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does not take action to regulate emissions from international shipping soon, then shipping companies are at risk of becoming the subject of negative public opinion, German media reports.
A number of industry players and experts attending ITF's summit stressed that pressure is currently on shipping industry regulators to develop policies to address the sector's carbon footprint.
"The IMO and shipping nations really have to show something considerable this year. If not, I think they will be held up to ridicule by a lot of these environmental NGOs and maybe the population at large," said Olaf Merk, Administrator Ports and Shipping at ITF.
Anna Larsson, Global Head of Sustainability, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics
You would maybe think, given that it's the same countries who signed the Paris agreement that actually sit in the IMO as well, that that should reflect a more progressive stance
It is feared that a strong enough shift in public opinion against shipping companies could encourage national or regional policymakers to come up with their own regulations before IMO does, which would likely lead to a "patchwork" of different regulations around the world - situation groups such as the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) have said would result in "chaos and market distortion."
"Nobody's forgotten the fact that we didn't get a decision," Anna Larsson, global head of sustainability at Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, adding: "it's quite clear that the pressure's still on."
"You would maybe think, given that it's the same countries who signed the Paris agreement that actually sit in the IMO as well, that that should reflect a more progressive stance," said Larsson, noting that "unfortunately there are still some countries who are more concerned about short-term costs."
IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, has repeatedly stated that the organisation is making progress on reducing shipping carbon emissions through requirement for new ships to be energy-efficient and in imposing mandatory fuel monitoring, commenting at ITF that "there are many different kinds of action we can choose."
"We have listed many, but don't know which are the most urgent."
As Ship & Bunker previously reported, IMO announced in April that it had approved mandatory requirements for ships to record and report bunker consumption.