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Meet Martin Dorsman ECSA Secretary-General

Meet Martin Dorsman ECSA Secretary-General

ECSA, European Community Ship owners’ Associations has appointed Mr. Martin Dorsman (56) as its new Secretary-General in Brussels. Mr. Dorsman had started in his new position on November 1st, 2017.

Mr. Dorsman had transferred to ECSA from the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) where he has held the position of Managing Director since 2011. Before taking that position he worked for five years as the association’s Deputy Managing Director. 

He has a Doctorate Degree in Macro-Economic Policy and over 30 years of experience in different leadership roles and sound knowledge of Shipping.

 Before his time at the Royal Association of Netherlands Ship-owners, he worked as a civil servant for the Dutch Government, including six years at the shipping policy department.

At the beginning of the interview, Martin emphasizes that the 2030 Kingdom’s vision rightly attaches great importance to further develop its position as a major trade hub, becoming a logistical gateway to the three continents. Most notably the successful efforts to increase the size of its maritime fleet.

Martin Dorsman mentions that European shipping is still a strategic asset for the EU as European ship-owners control some 40% of the world fleet on average

ECSA is continuing to play a pro-active role in important topics such as the reduction of CO2-emissions of shipping while at the same time safeguarding and strengthening the business climate in Europe for shipping”, said Mr. Dorsman.

ECSA is representing the interests of its members to the European institutions, the Commission, the Parliament, and the representations of EU Member States in Brussels. 

What is your vision for the shipping world industry for the next decade?

The shipping industry will continue to serve global trade in a very efficient and effective way. However, the shipping industry will face many challenges and changes that will have a fundamental impact on the industry.

First of all, for the next decade, the transformation to become climate neutral has to proceed at an ever-increasing pace. New propulsion technologies, new low carbon or carbon-free fuels have to become available for global use. New bunker infrastructure will have to be developed. New builds will use the new engines and fuels. Depending on the new fuels existing ships will have to be retrofitted and have to become more fuel-efficient.

Secondly, due to these developments, the crews have to be properly trained to be able to handle the new fuels and propulsion systems. Additional training is also required to accommodate the continuous process of automation and digitalization. The profession of seafarers will change as a consequence, with part of the tasks being performed onshore and not on board a vessel anymore.

What are the reasons for the high cost of shipping in the world today?

There are some reasons:

– The very strong recovery of the world economy after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world economy in the first quarter of 2020. In a recent report, the World Bank stated that the current recovery is the strongest one in 80 years.

– The shift from buying services to buying consumer goods by many households around the globe due to the lockdowns

– The relatively small number of new builds being delivered to ship owners over the most recent years

– Distortion of supply chains, especially in the container liners sector, for example by long waiting times for US ports, use of containers for on-land storage, and other factors.

All these factors lead to a huge demand for shipping services, with supply not able to increase that quickly, leading to strong increases in freight rates. Many predict these high freight rates will last for some time. Also for the dry bulk segments, freight rates recovered very strongly after many years of depressed rates.

The covid-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the world economy generally and especially European Community Ship owners’ Associations, Can you explain more on the impacts of this crisis?             

As just mentioned many shipping segments are performing surprisingly strong. However, some segments are performing less favorably, like the offshore oil and gas sector and especially the cruise and passenger ferries. These sectors are just at the start of the recovery phase, hampered by the negative effects on passenger travel of the new Covid variants and travel restrictions imposed by many governments. 

What are ECSA’s key priorities?

For ECSA one of the key priorities is the ‘fit for 55’ package recently published by the European Commission. This package contains important policy proposals that can have a huge impact on the global shipping industry. Just to name a few examples:

– The European Commission wants to include shipping in the European Emission Trading System (ETS), meaning putting a carbon price on the use of bunker fuels, also for ships sailing to EU ports from other parts of the world and for ships leaving EU ports for a destination outside Europe

– The European Commission also wants to increase the energy efficiency of the bunker fuels used by ships. The only way the shipowner, who becomes liable for meeting this requirement, can meet the new efficiency norms is to use biofuels. This will also be applicable to bunker fuels bunkered outside the EU, so changing the global bunker industry profoundly.

Excuse me we have erroneous statistics of world movements trade can tell us the correct statistics?

I would suggest using figures of UNCTAD. The link gives you direct access to the relevant web pages. https://unctad.org/topic/trade-analysis/data-statistics-and-trends

You have more than 30 years of experience in the field of shipping. Do you see when the balance of freight in the world will adjust?

There is a famous saying, ‘predicting is very difficult, especially if it concerns the future and this saying applies to your question.

We live in very special times, already even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. The monetary policies of many countries, the extreme low or even negative interest rates, low inflation rates over the past years are completely new for the world economy. 

The question is whether these policies and monetary conditions are sustainable for the years to come. In some countries like the US, inflation is increasing quite strongly, in Europe the increase is more moderate. But given the global economic developments, a further inflation increase might happen, which might trigger economic turbulence.

Together with the increasing impact of environmental disasters such as extreme weather conditions (heat, massive rainfall, and flooding), the economic sentiment might turn negative with all the related consequences. But at this point, it seems the global economy will continue to develop positively.

Have you ever visited Saudi Arabia? If you had a chance to visit, would you be excited or interested in it?

I did not visit Saudi Arabia until now. Traveling to a new country, meeting new people, and getting in contact with new cultures is always an enrichment of one’s personal life.

In light of the kingdom s 2030 vision, can we say that the kingdom with its geostrategic position is a global logistic point?

The 2030 Kingdom’s vision rightly attaches great importance to further develop its position as a major trade hub, becoming a logistical gateway to the three continents. Together with the successful efforts to increase the size of its maritime fleet, the Kingdom will increase its importance in maritime affairs.

European Shipping has a long history. How can you describe European Shipping in numbers today?

 European shipping is still a strategic asset for the EU. European shipowners control some 40% of the world fleet on average and provide some 2 million people with a job. The contribution to the EU’s GDP is some € 149 bln per year of the EU’s total external trade some 76% is transported by sea. Of the trade between the EU Member States, some 32% is by sea, called short sea shipping.

The share of the EU flagged fleet in the total world fleet is a bit below 20%. Some countries in the EU prove that the goal to increase this share can be met, by introducing policies that make it attractive for ship-owners to fly the flag of their country. In the ’90s of the last century, the Netherlands showed the way how to do this; nowadays Denmark is an example of a country that launched effective policy measures to increase the number of ships flying the Danish flag.

We always have to remember that the choice of a flag can’t be forced upon ship-owners by regulations. A flag has to be a competitive option; otherwise, the flag will not be a sustainable choice for ship-owners.

What do European Community Shipowners’ Associations do? What are the strategic priorities of the ESCA?

ECSA is representing the interests of its members to the European institutions, the Commission, the Parliament, and the representations of EU Member States in Brussels.

This representation is done by drafting position papers on policy proposals, informing EU regulators on the specific characteristics of the shipping industry, coming forward with alternatives for proposed regulations, and also paying attention to an effective and efficient way of enforcing regulations.

ECSA’s overall policy is to safeguard the competitive position of European ship-owners so that Europe remains an attractive place for ship-owners to perform their business.

The challenge is to combine the ambitious goals of the EU on the environment and social affairs with the need to remain competitive. The shipping industry is fully committed to becoming climate neutral as quickly as possible, but we have to take into account that shipping is a global industry, and regulation by the United Nations’ IMO is the preferred option.

At the same time, the political reality is that the EU will come forward with a new environmental policy proposal specifically directed at the shipping industry. ECSA aims to make sure that these proposals are effective, takes into account the SME character of the shipping industry, and can be aligned with future IMO regulations.

Also on the social files, ECSA has clear ambitions, especially when it is about increasing the attractiveness of European seafarers. ECSA is convinced that European seafarers contribute to the strength of EU shipping. Concrete actions are needed to make sure European seafarers are competitive also in the longer run. Increasing their skills is a very important way to contribute to this goal and together with the European Transport Workers’ Federation ETF, we execute joint projects, funded by the EU. Increasing the inclusivity and diversity of the sector is also an important goal of both ECSA and the ETF.

To mention another important goal of ECSA is to keep global trade flows open and to maintain a rule-based global trade system. Without open markets EU shipping will face numerous trade barriers, seriously hampering trade flows and ultimately negatively impacting the world economy. ECSA is in frequent dialogue with the European Commission on trade policy and supports a review of the World Trade Organisation WTO, to enable them to play the same important role regarding trade topics as they did over the last decades.

This representation is done by drafting position papers on policy proposals, informing EU regulators on the specific characteristics of the shipping industry, coming forward with alternatives for proposed regulations, and also paying attention to an effective and efficient way of enforcing regulations.

ECSA’s overall policy is to safeguard the competitive position of European ship-owners so that Europe remains an attractive place for ship owners to perform their business.

The challenge is to combine the ambitious goals of the EU on the environment and social affairs with the need to remain competitive. The shipping industry is fully committed to becoming climate neutral as quickly as possible, but we have to take into account that shipping is a global industry, and regulation by the United Nations’ IMO is the preferred option. At the same time, the political reality is that the EU will come forward with a new environmental policy proposal specifically directed at the shipping industry. ECSA aims to make sure that these proposals are effective, takes into account the SME character of the shipping industry, and can be aligned with future IMO regulations.

Also on the social files, ECSA has clear ambitions, especially when it is about increasing the attractiveness of European seafarers. ECSA is convinced that European seafarers contribute to the strength of EU shipping. Concrete actions are needed to make sure European seafarers are competitive also in the longer run. Increasing their skills is a very important way to contribute to this goal and together with the European Transport Workers’ Federation ETF, we execute joint projects, funded by the EU. Increasing the inclusivity and diversity of the sector is also an important goal of both ECSA and the ETF.

To mention another important goal of ECSA is to keep global trade flows open and to maintain a rule-based global trade system. Without open markets EU shipping will face numerous trade barriers, seriously hampering trade flows and ultimately negatively impacting the world economy. ECSA is in frequent dialogue with the European Commission on trade policy and supports a review of the World Trade Organisation WTO, to enable them to play the same important role regarding trade topics as they did over the last decades.

On ECSA’s priority list numerous other topics are included, such as combating piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the migrant crisis in the Med, cybersecurity, safety issues, and so forth.

European shipping should not only remain the leader in maritime shipping, but also the leader in maritime knowledge. What does this mean in the practical activities of ECSA?

I already referred to the project jointly run with the ETF to increase the skills of European seafarers. This project is called Skill Sea and the main goal is to create a strategy and concrete tools to translate current and future trends in the shipping industry and the society into the educational packages of the European maritime education and training institutes (METs).

If we don’t create such a strategy and tools, then running such a project is important but in ten years, we have to have another project like Skill Sea. So we try to create a system that is here to stay for many years.

Trends that will lead to changes in the educational packages are for example digitalization and automation, the greening of the fleet, and the need to have more ‘soft skills, such as managerial skills.

Another activity is to exchange best practices between ECSA’s members of successful national maritime labor market policies. As the shipping industry, the labor market, the educational systems differ quite substantially between the EU Member States, there is no such a thing as a ‘silver bullet’ to work on more European seafarers, more youngsters that go to a nautical education, etc. It has to be bottom-up instead of top-down, starting at the national level. At the European level, we can exchange best practices, learn from each other and try to improve the labor market policies at the national level based on this input from colleagues in the other EU Member States.

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