Dear Kitack Lim,
It is now essential that we – as an industry – tell our story better and reverse the damage to our reputation. The mainstream media coverage of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting last month has highlighted that we are not doing enough, and we’re on the verge of losing the battle for public hearts and minds before it’s even started. It’s a long road to 2050!
As someone that loves working within the shipping industry, I am well aware of the significant progress over recent years that’s been made in relation to emissions reduction. However, it’s painfully clear that the rest of the world outside of our industry has no idea. In fact, they think our emissions reduction plans “have been slow in coming, low on ambition, weak on enforcement and, so far, inadequate to the scale of the problem”. It’s easy to be damning when you don't have all (and in many cases hardly any of) the facts. Which - for the most part – they do not.
Gone are the days when we can sail under the radar. Shipping is now firmly in the sights of so many environmental pressure groups that I lose count of them all. But the likes of the Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, The Clean Arctic Alliance, and Stand.Earth are opinionated, influential, and continuing to increase their share of voice, which is bringing shipping almost permanently into the harsh scrutiny of the public eye.
We need to tackle this head on and tell our side of the story far more consistently and with much greater volume and impact. Unfortunately, perception is reality. And right now, we are being viewed as an industry that is regressive and slow to evolve. As the face and voice of shipping in the public domain, the IMO must lead the charge in proactively communicating the positive change that is happening; driving the conversation and story out of the confined borders of our industry into the outside world.
We must act quickly and assertively. Otherwise we risk the power of public opinion bearing down on us and possibly forcing us into short-term reactionary measures, rather than the long-term solutions that will genuinely deliver environmental gains.