Ship management association InterManager is pleading with the European Commission to employ the “polluter pays” principle to level the playing field in the battle to decarbonise Europe’s waters.

The organisation is worried the proposed EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) could miss its mark if it holds ship managers accountable for emissions reductions, rather than target the parties who control key pollution-related aspects of ship operation, such as fuel, machinery and vessel speed.

InterManager, which represents 80% of the world’s largest ship management companies, has submitted a position paper to the EC.

TradeWinds is told under the legislation as it stands that the ISM manager, ie the technical ship manager, is responsible for paying the ETS fees.

That could potentially run to hundreds of thousands of pounds that would then need to be recouped from the shipowner, who may in turn look to recoup from the charterer.

Smaller managers may not be able to pay this upfront.

And if a manager were to be found in breach of the regulations, either by non-payment or non-compliance, the whole of a managed fleet could be subject to a ban from European waters.

The association has taken part in “high-level lobbying” on the issue and carefully produced its submission with legal input.

The paper states: “The huge financial risk imposed on ship managers by the revised ETS directive is disproportionate to the negligible influence managers have in respect of the emissions generated by maritime transport.”

InterManager stressed that it recognises the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from maritime transport and welcomes the inclusion of shipping in the ETS.

Secretary general Kuba Szymanski said: “It would be patently unjust if the EU legislation forcibly imposed that the ship manager shall be the regulated entity. This would be similar to holding the facility manager responsible, not the factory owner.”

InterManager is a Cyprus-registered global association that has been representing the ship management sector for more than 30 years.

Ship managers technically manage nearly 25% of the world fleet and that number is growing rapidly, it said.