EDITORIAL: INTERTANKO 2007 -- Serious, Substantial and Solution-Based

In the past three months, I’ve been to any number of trade shows and conferences related to the business of marine transportation in one way or another. I’m glad to be home for a while (so I can actually get some work done), but all of the events did have their merits. In this regard, however, this week’s INTERTANKO Tanker Event in Houston stood out in particular. I can’t remember the last time I attended a business event where more dialogue and frank Q&A took place. I know that I will want to go back again and I think it is safe to say that the overwhelming majority of those tanker executives (and media correspondents) in attendance would agree.

There was literally something for everyone. Consistent with INTERTANKO’s stated goals of “zero pollution, zero fatalities and zero detentions,” the first “Slops Reception Facility Guide” was presented to outgoing President Stephen Van Dyck at one of the Poseidon Challenge (the zero goals) sessions. Long a sore spot for tanker operators, the identification of which facilities could take what materials ashore was a welcome product of this noble effort. In another session, Panama Canal executives explained the rationale for the coming expansion of the waterway and attempted to justify the (up to 40%) increase in tariffs to a sometimes skeptical audience. Other working sessions included such hot-button issues as stack emissions from vessels, ship vetting and a host of other pertinent subjects.

This is the kind of conference that the industry should strive for. As the event progressed throughout the week, I found myself wishing that I was back in the operations game. Okay--maybe not. After all, I’ve got a good seat for the show and with no one to annoy, I can write about the most fascinating subject that I know: the tanker game. Now, I’m waiting for the phone call from my (irate) sales executive. On a more serious note, the event was well attended by the trade media, who found a competent and willing group of industry executives with whom to dig deep for a good story.

The challenges facing the tanker industry and owners in particular are many. These issues are also formidable and they are not going away any time soon. We can be thankful that an outfit like INTERTANKO is at the helm, trying to find solutions. In industry, we often find barriers to solving problems. At INTERTANKO, attendees found partners in the process. It has been said many times: if you are not a part of the solution, then you are most likely part of the problem. INTERTANKO and its members are clearly focused on being the former.

The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard does not show up at an industry event to indulge fools. At this year’s INTERTANKO event ADM Allen, in particular, exemplifies a no-nonsense approach that clearly will not tolerate fakers. Tuesday’s presentation by the Commandant was a clear signal that he had found a willing partner in the way forward on any number of critical issues. What happens next is anyone’s guess. If I were a betting man--and I certainly am not--I’d say that the Americans have finally found a business entity who knows the score, can play ball and, finally, enjoys a little give and take. It’s about time. Hold on tight, though. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Joseph Keefe is the Managing Editor of THE MARITIME EXECUTIVE. He can be reached at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com.