It is, perhaps, often difficult to find sympathy for companies that earn millions of pounds a year when they complain of feeling the strain and having to pass price increases on to the consumer. And we’re in no doubt that many large companies need to do more to take their environmental responibilities seriously despite it often being costly to do so.
So at first glance it might be tempting to dismiss today’s warning by Brittany Ferries about anti-pollution regulations as scare-mongering – a company moaning about a rule meant to improve the environment that will be expensive and time-consuming to implement.
Look beneath the surface though, and the picture becomes clearer.
There’s no reason not to take Brittany at its word when it says that it’s not the rule itself it objects to, but the timescale imposed on it.
The European Union wants to significantly reduce fuel sulphur levels in some of the world’s most congested seas – a laudable aim.
It’s simple enough to say, but like many things, much harder to do. It means either paying much, much more for low-sulphur fuel, or building new ships that can run on cleaner fuel.
Add to that the problem that the supply chain is not yet in place for these developments and Brittany’s point that this is a huge job to achieve in less than two years seems more than valid.
Shipping is one of the most important industries that our city supports and while Brittany’s assertion that trying to fit in with these new rules could lead to the collapse of the company may seem slightly over-dramatic, we don’t doubt that it could cause the company some very severe problems indeed. The consequences of those problems – job losses and loss of revenue for the city – would be extremely serious.
There does, however, appear to be hope on the horizon.
French authorities have agreed to delay these changes coming into effect until 2020, which seems more reasonable – if the British government agrees.
We would urge ministers to do just that.