The New Voice of the Bulk Terminal Operator

By Joseph Keefe

The setting up of a much needed trade association for the bulk terminal operator could see ABTO become a key opinion former at the highest level.

The glut of regulations that have or are due to enter into force inevitably impact the bulk carrier operator but while there are various organizations that provide this sector with a voice that is heard throughout the corridors of maritime power, the global bulk terminal operators’ voice is rarely heard at such a high level. “ABTO serves to deliver that voice,” says Ian Adams, the Chief Executive of the newly established Association of Bulk Terminal Operators.
Created to fulfill a need within the bulk industry for representation at national and international level, ABTO will focus on events at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which will have an effect on the operations of terminals.
Adams looks to be the right person for the job. He has over a decade of experience working at IMO, having been the Head of Delegation for the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) and International Bulk Terminals Association (IBTA). He was also a member of the IMO Secretary General’s Industry and Scientific Expert Panel for the revision of MARPOL Annex VI and the environmental consultant of the national delegation of St Kitts and Nevis.
“As a regular attendee at IMO meetings I know the value of a consistent and regular attendance, we need to be seen to be attending and participating in order to gain credibility. I have also worked with the European Commission and will continue to do so,” he says.
“Communications between the various parties is key to not only ABTO’s success but also its membership. There are areas which can be improved both by different parties talking to each other and by the introduction of relevant legislation. Whilst most will agree that there is more than enough red tape already, considered, well written regulation can help to avoid accidents and fatalities which can only be a good thing for the industry,” says Adams.
“We will also be providing the opportunity for ABTO members to discuss issues affecting their business. This will be achieved by conferences and using technology such as webinars and conference calls. We recognize that it is not always possible for members to travel to a major annual conference and so we will look at various ways to facilitate the exchange of ideas. This may take the form of local events where there are significant clusters of members as well as technological solutions. We will also be holding at least one major event per annum which will be in a city which has good access from all over the world.
Commenting on the relationship between MARPOL Annex V and the IMSBC Code, which Adams believes is becoming increasingly complex, he says the decision by IMO to classify cargo residues as garbage is the cause of much consternation across the industry. 
“The issue of cargoes which are deemed harmful to the marine environment has further complicated the situation and has led to major concerns among the world’s bulk terminal operators. ABTO has a role in monitoring these developments as well as explaining to its membership the requirements. It is particularly important for terminals to understand where the demarcation zone of responsibility actually lies.”
Adams says it is understandable that a terminal operator would wish to aid shippers, given they are ultimately their customers, but they have to understand where their responsibilities end. “ABTO fully appreciates that these lines will, during commercial discussions, become blurred, but it is important that both parties are fully aware of their obligations,” he says.
The issue of reception facilities continues to be an area of concern. “Again ABTO has a role here to explain the issues to both the terminal operators and other stakeholders. This role will include mediating between parties who have misinterpreted the rules, misunderstood them or been misled as to the specific requirements of the regulations.
“The dissemination of information will also be a significant part of our value added proposition. When papers of significance are submitted to IMO or any other legislative body we will seek member’s opinions regarding them. I also believe it a fundamental aspect of ABTO to explain those papers clearly and to guide its membership through the legislative procedures so that a measured and proportionate response is expressed about the proposal. This will also help ABTO members to fully prepare for any regulatory outcome.”
He further adds that liquid bulk terminals have been at the center of regulations for longer than dry bulk terminals but that does not lessen the need for this sector to be represented and supported. Indeed, under the auspices of ABTO both the liquid and dry bulk terminal operators will be able to discuss areas of common interest such as the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, as well as draw on each other’s experience to address issues which at first may not appear related, such as pollution prevention.
Climate change is another topic which is currently widely discussed and ABTO will be seeking to work alongside stakeholder representatives to ensure that the very best practices are brought to the attention of its members. 
“Following on from the United Nation Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), Conference of Parties (COP 21) in Paris in December 2015 transport is coming under more scrutiny. Terminals, as part of the transport infrastructure, have an important role in the debate and ABTO will be there to support, advise and represent members over the coming years.”
While the fledgling association has so far had a positive response from industry, with a number of terminal operators joining as full members, a comment posted on the ABTO website in response to a news release, is indicative of the wider industry feeling:  “An organization like this is very much needed to represent the issues at the highest level. And also using this platform, members can share their best practices (which helped them in improving their operational efficiency) with other members.”
Adams couldn’t agree more. “Whether members are wet or dry bulk terminal operators, suppliers of equipment and services to those terminals, or relevant associations and institutions, we will be able to ensure that regulators and Administrations fully understand the implications of any decision that impacts their business.”
The ABTO Secretariat is be guided by a Members Advisory Panel (MAP) on the current and relevant issues influencing the technical, commercial, environmental and market conditions affecting bulk terminal operations and the transportation of commodities. This panel is supported by Maritime Association Management Company (Maritime AMC Limited), a company set up to carry out all administrative and management functions on the Association’s behalf.
“This structure recognizes that in these modern times, trade association members do not have the time to devote hours or even days to raise issues at a higher level or to influence decision making. We hope to cooperate more fully with all industry organizations, including those representing ship owners/operators, specialist terminal operators and other groups with an interest in the bulk trades to ensure that our members’ voices are heard at national and inter-governmental level,” says Adams.
(As published in the Q3 edition of Maritime Logistics Professional)
Maritime Logistics Professional Magazine, page 26,  Q3 2016

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