Published: July 2017Contents
i) What are the hot topics?
Tech is a continuing hot topic for shipping, including ecommerce, e-chartering, e-bills, new navigational technology and automated vessels.
Cybersecurity also continues to be a hot topic for shipping this year, following on from high profile cyber attacks and the launch of BIMCO's cybersecurity guidelines for ships.
On sanctions, the change of US administration means that the sanctions landscape is more complex and uncertain than ever before, especially for a country like Iran. The change of leadership in the US has also impacted on crewing, with issues for operators with crew members affected by the executive orders on immigration.
Emissions control is being hotly debated by the shipping industry at the moment. At the IMO's MEPC 70 in October 2016 it was confirmed that a global upper limit for fuel sulphur content of 0.5 per cent will be in force from 2020. It was also proposed in late 2016 by the EU Parliament's Environment Committee that the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) be extended to cover shipping.
Decommissioning work will increase significantly over the coming decade. A recent report on decommissioning has predicted US$70-US$82 billion spend on decommissioning in the North Sea basin from 2016 to 2040.
ii) Tell us about any key legal developments – recent or pending – and their international impact.
Brexit is a key development, with the expected triggering of Article 50 by the UK in 2017, beginning the process for Britain to leave the EU. There have been concerns about enforcement of English judgments and arbitration awards. However, the majority of shipping contracts globally will almost certainly continue to be governed by English law, as Brexit will not significantly affect enforceability. Arbitration awards will continue to be enforceable under the New York Convention and it seems likely reciprocal EU/UK enforcement of court judgments will be agreed.
Another major legal development for the shipping industry is the significant overhaul of the English law of maritime insurance, the law which governs most of the world's marine policies. The Insurance Act 2015 came into force on 12 August 2016 and made reforms in areas including disclosure by policyholders and their agents, warranties and insurers' remedies for fraudulent claims. The Enterprise Act 2016, in force from May 2017 introduces liability for insurers if claims are not paid within reasonable time. These changes have been broadly welcomed by marine policyholders.
iii) What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for practitioners and clients?
The current financial climate remains a challenge for the industry. With pressure on freight rates, overcapacity and historically low oil prices, in the wake of Hanjin's insolvency further insolvencies continue to be expected. However, despite these challenges there remain significant opportunities and forward-looking shipping companies are innovating to get ahead. For example, companies are increasingly using big data to maximise profit, including by making their fleets as fuel-efficient as possible and looking to new technology to reduce costs. There have been interesting developments in relation to direct freight booking with owners via online platforms and the launch of new 'green' maritime tech which has the potential to cut fuel costs and reduce emissions.
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