01 April 2018

The Shame Game - Michael Grey of Lloyd’s List

THERE is a new and nasty disease around this winter. Not the various strains of influenza, but more of a social phenomenon, that is both unpleasant and reprehensible. It is facilitated by social media, the technology that enables a small number of driven people to cause a great deal of noise and commotion when they perceive something with which they disagree. To your average nose ringed activists, it is as if all their birthdays have come at once, as they swarm around their prey.

It also spills into bullying and what is euphemistically called “direct action” which is not far short of violence, a modern derivation of the strategies employed in the 1930s, in certain parts of Europe. And sadly, it seems to be working, with even big corporations, quasi-governmental organisations and people you might think would have a stiffer backbone, cowed into submission by the noisy and persistent minority.

When the cause of the activists seems to be derailed by science, evidence or reason, that won’t stop them as they will just shriek the louder, take to the streets and the various media platforms, to silence those who might disagree with them. Whether it is militant vegans persecuting pig farmers, the hunt saboteurs, organised anarchists terrifying small retailers, right through to the climatologists against oil, who seemed to have frightened the World Bank, it is collectively a testament to the powers of unreason and rage.

You might dispute the process, but I thought that the recent announcement by the Norges Bank and the Council of Ethics of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global to the effect that they would discriminate against shipping companies that had chosen to scrap ships in places they disapproved of, was a classic example of this nasty disease showing itself in northern climes. Norwegians like to regard themselves as terribly proper, happy to emphasise their environmental credibility (much of which is facilitated by their oil and gas riches) and offering an example to us all.

But in this case, it would seem that the proprietors of all this money have allowed themselves to be unduly influenced by activists who will stop at nothing to prevent ships being recycled on the beaches of Asia, who care nothing about the livelihoods of those that work in this industry and who refuse to accept the improving situation in many of these yards. In short, the fund managers have been bullied, persuaded by what has become known as “fake news”, repeated ad infinitum by the activists of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, which is doing its damnedest to discredit the Hong Kong Convention.

You might suggest that the fund is free to do with its money as it wishes, but it is clearly acting out of ignorance in respect to the status of the Hong Kong Convention, which effectively deals with the ships, their materiel and the subsequent treatment of the land-based waste generated from this product. It deals with the environment and the working conditions of those in the recycling yards.

There is also no shortage of objective evidence of the incremental improvements that have been taking place in the three recycling nations of Asia. If they are trying so hard, is the discrimination of this fund against potential users of these yards either fair or just? Is it based on any real evidence, or merely the prejudiced views of an activist organisation, whose sole purpose is to prevent ships being recycled in places of which they disapprove?

I merely ask the question of this fund chairman, who seems to have been influenced without properly considering the situation on the ground. Is this action helping, or discouraging those yards which are working hard and spending a lot of money, to bring their facilities into a state of compliance? Or is this just “virtue signalling”, which is another modern phenomenon that is related to the above.

Of course, matters would surely be helped by a little more encouragement by flag states to bring the Hong Kong Convention into effect. Governments have all sorts of priorities, but if they have any sort of shipping industry, they have a vested interest in this convention and it surely would not be too much trouble. There may well be improvements that could be made, once the convention is up and running, but for goodness’ sake give it a fair trial.

We need to show the world’s biggest recyclers that we care and will encourage their improvements, not constantly bleat about their residual deficiencies. It is also time we started to see the loud noises made by the one-dimensioned as what they are, and weigh the evidence in a more mature fashion. Which is quite obviously what the Norwegian chairman failed to do, before issuing this ill-found edict. But the Fund is by no means the first to be influenced by the mob, in an era of shame.

Source: steel guru. 14 February 2018

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