Before diving into the acronym soup in which this subject floats, I would like to say something: When I last wrote on this subject, I found myself being “trolled” by several people, including someone who thought it would be a good idea to try to get me fired from my day job. I have news for that person. I don’t know much about IT, but there are people who do. Ich weiß wer du bist. Wenn Sie es erneut tun, wird jeder wissen, wer Sie sind.
More helpfully, a friend whom I have known for some thirty-five years, and who is one of the largest shipowners in Greece, tells me that he had tried to explain to several other owners that, if everyone cut emissions by ten per cent by slow steaming, something that is immediately attainable, the positive effect on everyone’s freight rates would be more than ten per cent, but that more than half of the people he spoke to didn’t understand what he was telling them. I can understand why he has made a fortune in our business; what I cannot understand is how the others are still in it.
The next seven paragraphs involve anagrams. Skip them if you like.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee (“MEPC”) meeting this week at the International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”) is going to look at a short-term strategy to get us through the next five years. I think my friend described that, in the paragraph above – SLOW DOWN! It is not beyond the wit of man to work out ways in which such a simple measure can be “policed”, and the actual business of penalising those who don’t choose to comply (this is merchant shipping…) need not be that hard, either. Give the PSC people something more useful to do than flicking through folders of paper certificates. Pay whistle blowers (works for the USCG…) If we assume that most ships are going to be buying low sulphur fuel after 2020 there is a powerful incentive to slow down, right there…
And then there is the Long Term. If you are an IMO delegate from one of the four nations (Argentina, Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia, hereinafter referred to as “the half bricks”) who have submitted a position paper arguing for no regulations at all before 2023, and for the IMO’s target to be to do something or other by the end of the century, rather than by 2075, you are confusing the long term and the short term very badly indeed, because your short term goals, which we presume are cheaper shipping, have affected your ideas about a future so distant that your children will not live to see it. You are not kicking the can down the road, you are punting it out of sight, and you don’t know who you might hit with it.
2050 as the “end date for shipping emissions of greenhouse gases” has been proposed by the Pacific Islands Forum and endorsed by the EU.
Meanwhile the OECD International Transport Forum (no, not that “ITF”, this “ITF” used to be called the “CEMT” – I did warn you about the acronyms) say that we can get there by 2035, if we really try.. Very significantly, so do the European Shippers Council, who are to shipping what the bond market is to politics.
We cannot really decouple the short and the long term. For the long term target, forget 2075 and all that. I think that 2035 will prove to be necessary, but for the moment, let’s think about 2050. That is far enough away for hardly any ships afloat, under construction, on order, or being vaguely thought about, today, to survive to see it. Which means that no investment that has already been made, or even thought about, can be affected. So why would anyone have a problem with 2050 as the date at which the carriage of goods by sea should cease to emit any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere? If they do, they are not thinking straight
Lastly the ICS (yes, that ICS) is, if its Chairman, Esben Poullson, will permit me to say so, being a bit waffly. I agree with Esben that the target proposed by the EU is “unlikely to achieve consensus support”. That does not make it wrong; it means that those who oppose it should change their minds, because they are wrong. This is not a trivial issue, nor is it one on which our species can indulge in the luxury of compromise. Given the distance already travelled towards the Paris objectives by some very important shipping nations, it seems not unreasonable to assume that they are likely to continue towards that objective, rather than away from it with the half bricks.
No more acronyms, I promise. Merchant shipping and civil aviation were excused from compliance with the Paris goals but it is already clear that neither shipping nor aviation should have been excused, (and indeed aviation has already admitted as much) because our emissions are hardly trivial, and the educated general public is starting to notice, and to ask questions about it. Silly tricks like using 2008 as the base line will be seen through as the frauds that they are.
IMO boss Kitack Lim himself has urged the need to “set ambitious goals”. He is right.
I have been saying for some time that the nature of our industry is changing, and that whereas in the past, market issues determined the fate of shipping enterprises, in the future, regulatory issues will do so. Shipping has been the Last Frontier for old style independent free competition. That frontier is just about to close. I recommend old style shipping people to watch the old John Ford Western, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. It is set far from the sea, and makes no reference at all to matters maritime. It deals with the closing of a frontier, and the speed with which regulation overtakes those who love their freedom and their independence of action. The process is not reversible. The direction of travel is one way, and the speed of travel is increasing.