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Wednesday, October 16, 2019 

According to Erik Hånell, CEO of Stena Bulk, and Kim Ullman, CEO of sister company Concordia Maritime, discrimination against tankers over 15 or 20 years of age is not only jeopardising safety at sea, but prevents the implementation of new fuels, crucial for reaching long-term environmental goals and reversing climate change.

With current environmental efforts focusing on IMO2020 Sulphur regulation, many companies have made major investments in scrubbers for example, which can only be a short-term solution based on a questionable decision. The environmental gains are uncertain, but we know that there is not one single solution for the future. Our industry will be faced with major investment challenges in the search for fuels when more stringent emission standards become a reality in 2030 and 2050. LNG, bio-fuels, methanol dual-fuel, electricity, fuel cells or something even more innovative?

We don’t know yet. Innovation will need many progress steps to live up to future requirements, and time is limited. Finding the best answers to the question is a multi-billion-dollar issue – and no shipowner will be prepared to invest in technology for future legislations if the earnings from ships are torpedoed by a 15 or 20-year age limit.

A sustainable approach from a shipowner´s point of view is to build and maintain quality ships with a technical lifespan of 30 years and apply a financial model with a 25-year repayment year perspective. It is of course owners' own fault that we order too many ships and sell ourselves too cheap. There is a case saying that if a safe ship can be traded longer, there will be more room for innovation. This will not be done in one step, but many small steps, some ideas will work and some not.

Age restrictions are an outdated way of managing safety. We say these restrictions go against the sustainability trend in global society. Companies who want to protect their image should increase the focus on listening to the growing environmental movement rather than counteracting it by punishing older ships in good condition.

The responsibility for the transition to new fuels must go way beyond developing new ship technology. Innovative shipowners must be supported by an infrastructure that ensures large-scale availability of new fuels. We also need customers that recognise the long-term benefits of chartering existing ships; using established quality tools – maintenance standards, inspection results and CAP ratings – instead of age restrictions.

We ask those who practise an age limit instead of focusing on what is important, quality and the way the ship is run: "What will be the financial and logistic consequences if the stubbornness damages the innovation of new technology so much that you 20 or 30 years ahead face a shortage of tonnage that complies with the environmental standards because the investments and the many steps we now need to take never took place due to an unhealthy financial environment? We are all in the same boat and only by collaborating we will solve the climate crisis."

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