September 18, 2003
Shipowners face tougher future
Maitland said the outcome of the Prestige disaster clearly illustrate the circumstances that owners, as well as operators, class societies, banks and charterers, would face in the future. "Criminal sanctions are here to stay, and if there is a major casualty, the owner will find the master and officers in the lockup. The enormity of the claims against the Prestige's class society is an ominous portent of things to come."
Traditional shipowners will only continue to exist if they paystrict heed to the standards demanded by power blocs such as the EU, the United States and North Asia, as well as the OECD. "Quality and environmental awareness are no longer the best policy--they are the only policy," Maitlandsaid.
"If owners fail to comply, they will find that the freedom of shipping to trade in Europe, North America and North Asia will be further curtailed," he said. "The restrictions on shipping imposed in the wake of Prestige, along with the extra costs borne by owners, will multiply."
The shipowner and associated businesses will also progressively lose their anonymity, he said. "There will be more disclosure and more forms to fill out. It will no longer be possible to dodge responsibility for a vessel and its condition by employing the time-honored get-out legend of 'as agents only.'"
"The good news for the shipowner," said Maitland, "is that he will not ascend the gallows by himself. His bankers, lawyers, class society, P&I Club, hull syndicate, and charterer will be right there with him."
Clay Maitland will be speaking at Marine Log's Maritime Legislation, Regulation and Policy conference in Washington, DC, September 30 & October 1.