-Ménage à Trois-
in the Triangular Relationship between
- Regulators - Charterers / Shippers / Cargo Owners,
and its Effect on Quality in Shipping Today.
Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky
November 17 &18, 2003
This Mare Forum Conference is the official Conference of "Europort
2003" International Maritime Exhibition...
don't trust any shipowners!"
- said a representative of a major charterer at a recent Mare
Forum Quality Shipping . It seemed a sad commentary of our times
that a contractual relationship could be entered into, in such an
atmosphere of mutual suspicion.
But there is a great deal of mistrust about. Regulators routinely
pass "catch-all" legislation that will affect all
shipping because they wish to control, improve or eliminate a
small sub-standard element in the industry. Because of the faults
of the few , the many must pay, and if the regulator was pressed
as to why he considered such a draconian response was necessary ,
he would say that he was unable to reliably discriminate between
those operators who could be trusted to retain their quality
approach, and the few rogues. Better be safe and clobber the lot.
The owner retorts that the regulators are incompetent, or are
merely serving up new rules to satisfy politicians who want to
demonstrate that they have a finger on the button. Mistrust also
begets disrespect and is another regrettable phenomenon of our
Owners expect the worst of their customers. They are very often
fully justified , as shippers lie about the contents of their
containers, or refuse to comply with the ship's cargo plan on the
bulk berth or routinely cheat them. Charterers use weather
routeing services, not to primarily ensure a smooth passage, but
to employ "hindcasts" after the event; to check up on
the weather that the master logged. They wouldn't dream of
trusting a professional shipmaster to tell the truth.
Mistrust therefore transmits itself right across the industry. It
is like the eternal triangle , with mutual suspicion between the
parties, and it is getting worse, in an age where liabilities are
increasing rapidly, when nobody dare do anything without their
lawyer being present and a blame culture prevails. It is corrosive
and of no benefit to anyone except perhaps the lawyers , and it
costs a great deal of money.
If the quality shipping initiative is to progress , trust between
the parties involved must be restored and the purpose of this; a
logical successor in the Mare Forum Quality Shipping series will
be to devise a blueprint for the restoration of trust and the
reduction of suspicion between the partners in this ménage a
trois of shipowners, regulators and charterers/shippers/ cargo
To begin this process we need to analyse why the commodity of
trust is in such short supply. It could be surmised that it is a
function of the cheapness that has permeated every aspect of the
transport industry, with every party ruthlessly focused upon the
bottom line and determined to fight for every last cent. Here we
have progressed beyond efficiency and good productivity, into the
wasteland of needlessly competitive point scoring.
When users of marine transport don't wish to even notice its cost
in getting their goods to market, when buyers of ships fiercely
beat down the shipbuilders to obtain the lightest, most capacious
and cheapest ship from the builders and skimp on the
specification, when shippers take the cheapest tender and argue
furiously over every line in a contract to obtain the maximum
benefit to themselves, is there not something that is endemically
wrong? Is the whole process just ridiculously over-competitive? Is
the ready escalation to the legal process over every contract
dispute just unreasonable?
Is there a possibility of conciliation that might persuade the
warring members of this triangular relationship to mend their ways
and acknowledge that trusting is better than fighting? Can we
return to the days of balanced documents and contracts that
recognised rights and responsibilities and moreover were
acknowledged by both parties? Can the regulator learn to trust the
quality operator and frame his regulations accordingly? Can
regulation target those whom it is aimed at while leaving others
By promoting the concept of greater trust , this mould-breaking
conference in the Quality Shipping Series acknowledges that there
is a great deal of quality shipping around and much good within
the industry. A focus upon quality has been largely successful,
and this is reflected in the industry's hugely improved safety and
environmental record. There is ample statistical evidence to
demonstrate these matters, just as there is much to be proud of in
the industry's greatly improved productivity and efficiency.
Recognising this excellence must be part of the conciliation
Mare Forum 2003 will have a number of broad aims, within the
framework of "improving trust between the parties". It
will seek to establish common ground , attempt to refine concepts
of responsibility for the reduction of suspicion and hopefully
devise a programme that might refresh the atmosphere of mutual
suspicion. "A fair price for good shipping service";
"A balanced deal between contracting parties" and "
a reasonable recognition of a quality shipping operation "
are not ridiculous concepts and we believe that they can be made
are looking forward to welcoming you to Amsterdam,
Dutch Ministry of Transport
International Chamber of Shipping
American Chamber of Shipping
van der Jagt
European Shippers' Council
European Community Shipowners' Association
Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners
North Star Maritime
Lyras Shipping Ltd
International Registries, Inc.
Hong Kong Shipowners Association
National Technical University
Beurs - World Trade Center
P.O. Box 30027
3001 DA Rotterdam