Into the 21st century and beyond (1996-Present)
Richard du Moulin took over as INTERTANKO Chairman in 1996 when the idea took root that responsibility for safe and sound shipping is shared between all those elements which are involved in its execution. This gave rise to the concept of the ‘chain of responsibility’, an idea first conceived and promoted by former INTERTANKO Vice Chairman Philip Embiricos (1992-97) which emphasises joint responsibility as well as the fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
This view was crystallised when Erika broke up off France in December 1999 - the year Westye Hoegh became INTERTANKO Chairman. The Erika incident resulted in the loss of 20,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil lost and brought in IMO’s amendments to Marpol 73/78 with a tougher single-hull phase-out timetable. It also brought the EU into the regulatory frontline and signalled the start of the two-tier tanker market.
As the 20th century gave way to the new millennium, the year 2000 saw INTERTANKO gain a landmark legal victory in Washington (US V. LOCKE AND INTERTANKO V. LOCKE) when five years of fighting through the US courts resulted in the Association winning its argument that individual US states had no constitutional right to regulate matters of vessel design, construction, maintenance, operation, equipping and manning.
INTERTANKO’s role became increasingly political as the decade wore on, with an emphasis on regulation at the IMO, in Washington D.C. and in Brussels, as well as emphasis on the environment and on the industry’s image.
The first decade of the 21st century, however, started with relatively tight market balance and a limited shipbuilding capacity, which helped boost earnings.
Shipping super boom
For a large part of the 2000s, shipping experienced a super boom, with all sectors of the industry enjoying unprecedented simultaneous profitability for a time.
With a closer supply/demand balance and increased employment came greater market volatility. VLCC spot rates swung from US$10,000 to US$100,000 a day in six months, then from US$15,000 to a peak of close to US $250,000 a day in another 6-12 months.
The ‘chain of responsibility’ concept came to the fore again in 2002 when Prestige broke up off the coast of Spain. This incident not only resulted in the loss of 70,000 tonnes of fuel oil, but ushered in the EU phase-out regulation and a further tightening of the international phase-out regime.
Safety became a watchword for INTERTANKO during this period. In 2002, Lars Carlsson - who served as INTERTANKO Chairman between 2001 and 2004 - wrote in the Association’s Annual Report: "Tankers do not spill oil. People do. Ninety per cent of accidents are due to human error, yet when disaster strikes, the emphasis is placed on the ship, its design and its condition. Rather than focusing exclusively on the ship, we should be concentrating on the human aspects, including the crew. We need to ascertain what changes to crew practices need to be made, and how we can empower officers and crew to help prevent accidents from reoccurring."
With the industry cooperating to produce a compensation regime that balances the interests of all stakeholders, the limits of liability under the 1992 CLC/Fund regime were raised by 50% in 2000, and in 2003 the Supplementary Fund provided a third tier of compensation up to $1.2bn.
At the same time, the tanker trades were becoming diversified, with almost twice as much oil going Middle East/East as went Middle East/West. China’s oil consumption increased by 77% over the decade, pushing its oil imports up 250% and becoming one of the main drivers of the tanker market.
After Stephen Van Dyck became Chairman of INTERTANKO in 2004, his first Annual Report saw him reaffirm the Association’s commitment to setting the agenda for tanker safety and environmental awareness.
This same message was repeated by Nicholas Fistes when he served as INTERTANKO Chairman between 2007 and 2009.
Moving forward to 2010, INTERTANKO Chairman Capt Graham Westgarth reported: "Having enjoyed a generally strong performance over the previous five years, 2009 was not the easiest of years for the tanker industry as reduced transportation demand for tankers suppressed freight rates and tanker values.
"Until demand picks up, the steady and significant influx of new tankers, as the tanker fleet becomes the youngest in 30 years, may keep earnings down."
He continued: "Looking forward to 2010 and beyond, INTERTANKO is focusing on four overarching priorities where we will continue to develop and promote best practices in all sectors of our industry; work towards being even more of a positive and proactive influence with key stakeholders, developing policies and positions, engaging with policy and decision makers; continuing to profile and promote the oil and chemical tanker
industry, communicating its true role, its social value and its strategic importance as a dynamic force in enabling commerce; and continuing to concentrate on the provision of key services to our Members with customised advice, assistance and access to information, and enabling contact and communication between Members and with other stakeholders."
Earlier, Capt Westgarth commented: "The rest of Nicholas Fistes’ vision for INTERTANKO’s work - encompassing membership involvement, the profile of the tanker industry and continuous improvement where we learn from the past and embrace change - remains."
Capt Westgarth took over as INTERTANKO Chairman at a time when the tanker industry was - and still is - facing enormous challenges, such as an ongoing supply/demand imbalance that decimated earnings, greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring the availability of properly trained and experienced officers and the unwarranted criminalisation of seafarers.
This led to him writing in the 2013 Annual Report: "In response to this, the biggest single issue faced by our Members, our Council and Executive Committee have tasked us with putting together a Sustainability Project, which will have two main aims.
"First, we are seeking to raise awareness of the implications of our Members continuing to face prolonged periods of fixing vessels at levels which barely cover vessel operating costs. Second, we are inviting key stakeholders in the tanker sector to work together to find ways to address operational issues which leave the market imbalanced."
Dr Nikolas Tsakos became INTERTANKO Chairman in 2014. Fresh challenges faced the tanker industry despite many INTERTANKO Members experiencing some of the lowest crude oil prices and bunker costs in the last 15 years. Attention was now turning to reducing the oil tanker’s carbon footprint further by making ships even more environmentally friendly.
Under Dr Tsakos’ Chairmanship, INTERTANKO saw its focus expand to issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, biofouling, ship noise, ship/terminal interface issues and navigation safety.
INTERTANKO’s Annual Report that year saw Dr Tsakos write: "We are increasing our focus on commercial issues. This includes watching for and mitigating deterioration in chartering terms and commercial practices, quick drafting of model clauses for specific needs, as well as monitoring sustainability and transparency.
"We have seen growth and engagement in our Payments Performance System which provides Members with a tool to compare different charterers’ freight and demurrage payment performance and allows INTERTANKO to effectively engage in a robust way with charterers on their specific payment performance and claims handling efficiency.
"Our work on the vetting front continues as we actively engage with OCIMF/CDI and with individual Members of both organisations to ensure vetting policies and practices are developed in the spirit of the SIRE system, and to provide advice and guidance to members to assist them in complying with vetting requirements."