European nations demand more urgent ship emission regulations

European nations are determined to get ship emissions cut quicker than current timelines proposed by regulators and lobbyists.

Following France’s proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for speed limits for shipping, Denmark, Germany and Spain have submitted a joint proposal ahead of next month’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) session. The joint proposal, like France’s, seeks to bring in urgent short-term measures to speed up shipping’s decarbonisation drive before 2023 as required by IMO’s initial strategy on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The 10-page document seen by Splash details a goal-based approach to cutting CO2 emissions and claims it can achieve at least a 40% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030.

The goal-based reduction measure is based on the legal framework of the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). The co-sponsors consider it essential for a possible mandatory reduction measure to reward early action in order to encourage further energy efficiency initiatives, both by building new more energy efficient ships and by retrofitting energy-efficiency technologies to existing ships.

The goal-based approach would leave it up to shipowners how exactly they reach the improvements in operational efficiency, but would incentivise everything from hull cleaning and bubble systems to retrofitting sails on top.

The proposal is significant in that if it were legislated it would mark the first time ever that IMO CO2 regulation would apply to all the existing 52,000 or so commercial vessels.

Splash understands the European Commission is expected to submit a paper to the IMO this week which concludes that the sort of operational efficiency measure proposed by Denmark, Germany and Spain, or the speed limits proposed by France, are the only two realistic ways for the IMO to achieve its 2030 target to cut emissions by 40%.

Reducing speed for most ship sectors would work as an “excellent transitionary and early measure”, France stated in its submission to the IMO, reported by Splash earlier this month. France has not specified by how much ships should slow, seeking discussion with IMO member states on the matter.

As a second step, France, similar to the paper submitted by Germany, Spain and Denmark, is proposing a global goal-based approach to be substituted for the prescriptive speed regulations, something to cover the entire global merchant fleet and a regulation that would reward innovation. France is also calling for shipowners to annually peak their greenhouse gas emissions.

For its part, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the industry’s top lobbying group, has proposed its own short-term measures. These include tightening of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships – which already requires ships built in 2025 to be 30% more efficient than those delivered before 2013 – as well as proposals for a ‘Super SEEMP’ whereby existing Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans could be subject to mandatory external audits, likely as part of the ISM Code.

Dr Tristan Smith from London’s UCL Energy Institute is set to publish later this week an in-depth study on the various proposals for IMO member states to assess, results of which run contrary to ICS’s position on greenhouse gases.

“Modelling work we have undertaken to evaluate different short-term options shows that the only way to be faithful to both the IMO policy objective, and the science, is stringent mandatory limits that are effective on the existing fleet such as speed limits or a goal-based mandatory limit,” Smith told Splash today, adding: “We modelled scenarios of tightening current EEDI limits, and applying voluntary limits in SEEMP as ICS et al have proposed, and these were clearly inadequate in the critical time-scale out to 2030.”

Commenting on the various proposals, Di Gilpin from the Smart Green Shipping Alliance, told Splash: ”It’s really very encouraging to see the need for greater urgency being recognised at MEPC. Whilst other political institutions around the world acknowledge the climate emergency and are considering zero-emission by 2025 targets, it is commercially, politically and socially important for shipping to be ratcheting up its ambition now and not wait until 2023.”

Gilpin said the proposed goal-based measures should be welcomed by the many shipowners who have been calling for level playing fields when it comes to environmental regulations in recent years.

“Ambition combined with pragmatism – basing targets on existing measures – makes implementation relatively easy and levels the playing field. Shipowners remain in control of their own business decisions, and the smart ones can confidently explore and encourage radical innovations in the knowledge that it will improve their corporate resilience.”

Anne Steffensen, director general of Danish Shipping, Denmark’s shipowners’ association, welcomed the latest IMO proposal, saying it was a better concept than France’s speed limit idea. Steffensen told Splash: “In Danish Shipping we support a goal-based approach, which leaves room for shipowners to decide how to achieve the 40% relative reduction in 2030. A goal-based approach gives a level playing field and drives innovation towards new fuel types whereas speed limits will not solve the problem and risk being a sleeping pill.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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