The call for papers pending Interferry’s 2018 conference in Cancun this October has caused the very best kind of headache! The Safety, Security & Environment theme attracted an astounding quantity and quality of applications, but the speakers program is now close to being finalised and will be notified in the coming days.

As always, however, first step in the process was to confirm a line-up of industry-leading keynote speakers to open debate on these major issues of the moment. Their participation has already helped to stimulate an early rush of delegate registrations, encouraging hopes that the 43rd annual event will be marked by yet another record attendance.

A taste of things to come can be derived from interviews conducted with two of the keynote guests – Robin Silvester, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, and Mark Sutcliffe, director of the CSO Alliance of maritime company security officers.

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is the managing organization of the Port of Vancouver, Canada’s largest port, which is acknowledged as an industry pacesetter on sustainability. Building on earlier initiatives, in 2010 it launched Port 2050, a suite of scenarios depicting various long-term challenges and opportunities. Among these, The Great Transition supports a shift to a lower carbon economy that couples the nation’s trade needs with maintaining a healthy environment.

In 2007 Vancouver introduced its EcoAction program, offering discounted harbour dues to eco-friendly vessels. Since 2017 this incentive for reduced air emissions has been extended with discounts for quieter ships – a world first. The port authority also led a conservationist, industry and government consortium running the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) research project. This featured a first-of-its-kind vessel slowdown trial demonstrating that the region’s at-risk killer whales can hunt, navigate and communicate better when underwater ship sound is reduced by lower speeds.

Shoreside, in a national first, the port implemented a mandatory truck licensing system in 2008 requiring container haulers to meet stringent engine age and idling reduction criteria. In 2015, a non-road diesel emissions program was added. This charges a fee to tenants using older, higher-emissions equipment, with rebates of up to 80% when replaced or upgraded.

Mr. Silvester argues that environmental enhancements contribute to commercial and community benefits, stressing: “Nearly all port stakeholders have embraced sustainability in their operations, with many making significant investments over and above regulatory minimums. We have seen strong growth over the past decade, with overall cargo throughput up by 39% and operating revenue increased by 76%. This demonstrates how we can successfully facilitate healthy growth in trade while also protecting the environment.”

Impressive growth has also marked the evolution of the UK-based CSO Alliance. Founded by Mr. Sutcliffe in 2012, its 700-strong membership in more than 40 countries includes security officers at leading container lines, oil majors, small owners and supporters such as DNVGL, Norwegian War Risk, the Marshall Islands Registry and aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which shares its experience from the aviation industry.

After six years in the British Army, Mr. Sutcliffe has worked in the maritime sector for 25 years, notably in senior positions with Gearbulk, the Gulf Agency Company and Wilhelmsen Ships Service. The Alliance dates from his concerns over the poor flow of intelligence to seafarers about ship hijackings and crew kidnappings in Somalia – prompting the concept of a real time risk management tool.

“We run a password-protected platform that can be accessed 24/7 to communicate issues and questions for support or debate,” he explains. “Any breaking issues are posted and a link sent out inviting CSOs to learn more. The system is integrated to all the key military maritime and merchant marine reporting centres, so we really do work as one on the security issues our industry faces.”

The creation of a Port and Facility Security Alliance – to assist port users including the ferry sector – is currently under discussion. Meanwhile, supported by Airbus and industry stakeholders, a new Maritime Cyber Alliance has been launched to counter one of the major emerging security threats.

Mr. Sutcliffe concludes: “It’s recognized that 50% or more of cases are not reported to the authorities for a whole host of issues. A key message is that the CSO Alliance platform allows crew to do so anonymously – with no comeback on them or potential PR hit on the company – so they can help to create our stated vision of Security through Community.”

In another keynote presentation, global terrorism trends will be explored by CDR Ben Lofstad of the Royal Norwegian Navy, who is director of the NATO Shipping Center – the primary link between naval authorities and the international merchant fleet. His presentation will highlight the Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) Doctrine, which supports the safe passage of merchant ships throughout times of peace, tension, crisis and war.

The Interferry Conference speakers program takes place on Monday and Tuesday October 8-9 as the centerpiece of a comprehensive networking and social program that runs from October 6-10 and provides an industry-leading opportunity to gain practical guidance and valuable new contacts.

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