Fatuous, unrealistic and unnecessary

Paul Slater, the veteran ship financier and chairman of First International Corp, provides an alternative point of view on all the emissions discussions going on this week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The current debate at the IMO and MEPC is attempting to focus on reducing the volumes of CO2 that escape from the exhausts of commercial ships.

Many attempts have been made in recent years in this regard including installing scrubbers on funnels, turning main engines off in port and burning lower carbonised fuel in certain coastal waters.

The current debate arises from the so-called Paris Agreement on climate change, which was endorsed by most countries but provided no enforcement.

It is important to note that the IMO/MEPC have no ability to enforce any actions that are voted on and it will be up to the individual nations to impose any rules or restrictions covering ship’s exhausts. Furthermore, a majority of the ships themselves and their owning companies are not located in nations that participated in the Paris Agreement.

Furthermore, the flag states have no authority to participate in the current debate or bind their shipowners to adhere to any agreement that the IMO reaches. This is particularly relevant given that two of the largest open registries are privately owned profit centers.

The CO2 issue has been grossly overstated in the press with ridiculous comparisons made in Newsweek and elsewhere and with Germans claiming that commercial shipping creates as much CO2 pollution as the entire country of Germany, which is doing nothing to reduce its own emissions.

Even assuming that the volumes of CO2 are correct, shipping exhausts are dispersed over the 70% of the world’s surface that is covered by water and it has been shown the CO2 is absorbed by sea water without any damaging results. Germany should be ashamed that it produces so much CO2 in such a small area of the world.

Shipping has struggled for years to reduce its engine exhausts by running slower and burning cleaner fuel but little is available in the ports and modifying the engines is very expensive. The cleaner fuel would also be expensive and more dangerous and inflammable than the present diesel. Any extra costs placed on shipowners today would have to borne by the cargo interests who are not included in the current debate.

The suggestion that shipping should simply cut CO2 emissions by 50% (some IMO states have suggested 70% to 100%) by 2050 is fatuous, unrealistic and unnecessary.


  1. Remarkable.

    Perhaps Mr Slater can tell us how scrubbers affect CO2 emissions and what “lower carbonised fuel” is?

  2. “Turning main engines off in port” was indeed a great breakthrough in emissions control. I believe we may congratulate an American for this useful idea.

    His name was Robert Fulton, and he died in 1815.

    1. As a former Engineer Officer, I always thought that ‘turning main engines off in port’ was a sign that the ship had arrived at its destination.

      The auxiliary engines, usually diesel, are still necessary for the provision of electricity for ship’s services; but as the ship doesn’t need to go anywhere until the time for sailing, the main engines stay resolutely still.

  3. Commentors above seem to be unfamiliar with shipping, or fuels, or economics.
    1. “Lower carbonised fuel” is natural gas, which has more of its combustion energy in hydrogen instead of carbon, and many new ships are being designed with natgas instead of diesel or petroleum boiler propulsion. Practicality of this is limited by the few ports where this fuel is available, which for now, limits it mostly to natural gas tankers.
    2. The petroleum fuel refining process produces many different grades of fuel, and the marginally distillable residual liquid hydrocarbons at the end of the process are used commercially by shipping and industrial plants because they have the highest heat content per unit of mass and volume and the lowest price. However, their high viscosity and low volatility require them to be preheated, and thus for the plants that use them to stay running so the fuel doesn’t solidify. It is good that somebody uses this fuel and it doesn’t go to waste.
    3. Sulfur in fuel is a lubricant, and diesel fuel’s natural lubricity is why these engines tend to outlast gasoline and other reciprocating types. The new low-sulfur fuels have no lubricity and are damaging to engines. They were developed to counter acid rain, which has since been debunked, but not deregulated. In combustion, the sulfur becomes SO2, which is the seed nuclei of cloud condensation, and which has a powerful climate cooling effect. Climate scientists are even proposing how to release SO2 from ships at sea to increase the Earth’s albedo. And yet, at the same time, IMO is trying to cut it back.
    – Beyond time for adults who actually understand how the world works to take back control of policy.

    1. Captain Kiefer’s own website does not suggest that he has any experience in merchant shipping, or in fuels, or in economics. He is, he tells us, “..director of Government relations and economic development for East Mississippi Electric Power Association and President of North Lauderdale Water Association..” after “..25 years as a naval officer and aviator…”

      I am sure that this is admirable, but I fail to see why he is qualified to tell us that it is “Beyond time for adults who understand how the world works to take control of policy” in the field of international merchant shipping.

  4. Dear Mr Slater. Your article is so riddled with misstatements and false facts as to make it a classic example to be quoted in future texts as fully representative of the worshippers of flat world thinking our children will remember as those who failed to avert the world from disaster.

    Lets start with the more blindingly obvious .
    1. A majority of ships /companies are not located in nations that signed the Paris Agreement. The Paris agreement is signed by 197 countries and 175 have ratified. This includes all the large flag states – Panama, RMI, Liberia, Singapore, Malta, etc. and all the large ship owning nations – Greece, China, South Korea, Norway, etc. At a technical level you could argue that as these ships are at sea for a proportion of their time they are not physically located in a country per se but that is not the context of your statement. The vast majority of shipping is either owned or flagged in signatory countries of the PA.

    2. CO2 is absorbed by seawater without damaging effect. I understand your higher level education was focussed on economics but even basic chemistry will advise you that this is fatuous fantasy. This bizarre assumption by continental mindsets that the ocean is a limitless benign repository of human generated waste is behind most aspects of activity that has now rendered large parts of oceans lifeless and empty except for plastic and waste. CO2+Seawater = carbonic acid. Acidification and ocean warming will see the loss of most world corals with your short life expectancy. Once we lose corals we lose the base protein diet of most Pacific peoples, to be quickly followed by the collapse of entire Marine eco-systems.

    3. Ridiculous comparisons of shipping emission to `Germany. The peer reviewed studies of the IMO by undisputed global exerts from leading European Universities confirm that the international shipping sector contributes an amount of GHG emission between that of Japan and Germany.

    4. Germany is doing nothing to reduce its own emissions. Hard to find any facts at all to back up. This is a ridiculous statement. Of course Germany is not doing as much as we would like , but it is and has taken enormous steps forward in reducing its emissions profile.

    5. Shipping has struggled …. Shipping has done the bare minimum possible and less than any other emitting sector thus far, smug in its position that it is already the most effect transport mover per ton mile. Your throwaway lines of more expensive, more dangerous, etc are not borne out by any real science I am aware of.

    I could go on in much more detail picking apart the nonsensical, fact-less basis of your diatribe. But to what end. If you are the voice of reason for an industry to whom you advise and has made you immensely rich, then I fear greatly for my children’s future. It is exactly your sentiments that make a positive end forward reaching outcome this week in IMO so unlikely.

  5. How is it that everybody seems confused on this issue – now wonder regulators are confused and will probably move in the wrong or un-needed direction again.

    1. There is no confusion, Dagfinn.

      There is some rather illiterate special pleading by lobbyists.

      I have been in this business for forty two years, and in the course of that time I have come to understand a little about economics and a bit about diesel engines. I even know a bit about fuels. I dare say you do, too.

  6. Dear Todd,

    The child speaks.

    The current debate at MEPC72 is not concern sulphur content off marine fuels. The health implications of high sulphur fuels used extensively by the maritime industry are well understood and the subject of quiet operate regulatory control the IMO. It is also understood that sulphur is not a green house gas and is therefore not been considered under the IMO road map for GHG emissions reductions from shipping.
    You can go and ask my Dad, Mr. Google, if this is right.
    Obviously well past my bed time.

  7. It is interesting to see the quick responses by Mr Craig-Bennett – who suggested in an earlier article to reduce CO2 emissions related to shipping 50% by 2050 – to which we find Mr Slater’s anwer today. Where I am presently working in the shipping industry and NOT involved in any kind of lobbying (my car runs on gas and my boat uses wind and has no engine), but knowing that the number of people on earth is growing and that shipping today ‘only’ produces 1-2% of the world’s consumption of fossil fuels and where consumption of ships generally have gone down since 2008 in favour of fuel lower costs and increased fuel efficiency of new designs, I must say that to my opinion it is unfortunately true what Mr Slater stipulates in his LAST sentence. The shipping industry only transports goods from A to B for clients like you and me. You cannot cut down the necessary energy to overcome transportation of goods below a certain degree, e.g. by lowering speed or bigger ships (economy of scale). With lower speeds you run into the problem of not being able to sail safely through bad weather and goods need to arrive somehow. There are also practical reasons for that: The slower the ships, the larger the necessary cargo hold volume needed for the goods that are there waiting for transportation! And ever larger ships cannot call certain ports anymore or cannot be docked every 5 years, unless more of such docks would be built additionally. It only leaves us to – indeed cut down emissions where possible – but the energy necessary for transportation is still needed! Do you want to cut CO2 then you have to cut down the amount of goods. This means in 2050: More people but less goods to be transported. How? You need to produce there, where these goods are consumed. Shipping, to reach lower CO2 emissions here, is the wrong addressee! Or do you want nuclear ships? I don’t think so. And still also intelligent people fool themselves with zero-emission battery driven vehicles. What even is worse: They share that fooling themselves, because that makes it even nicer. Logical people know that zero-emission is only possible with nuclear power, leaving out CO2 for building such plants. Finally talking about CO2 and Germany: It is understood that Germany prefers to produce more CO2 as a logical consequence of not wanting to run nuclear power stations any longer, which they achieved. It shows that end of April the goals of Paris or CO2 for 2018 had already been reached. With 10-20% more population to come in the next years – also because of ‘limited’ flow of refugees the figures of Paris show to be an illusion. This means that a lot of illusionists are jumping on the emissions train and also picking on shipping. And obviously also in these threads und also among the writers for splash247…

  8. Thanks, Mike. I think your comments allow us to write “FWE” under this red herring… unless someone wants to engage the turning gear, of course…

  9. The entire assumption that CO2 is “bad for the Earth” is probably wrong. Most of those fossil fuels that we worry about burning, came from CO2 and Oxygen consumed by living matter during the Carboniferous Period, (about 350 to 250 million years ago) when life was on Earth (and CO2) was so abundant that decaying living matter turned into entire limestone mountain ranges. CO2 is an essential component of life. Plants need it and us oxygen respiring warm blooded mammals need it for our blood haemoglobin to release oxygen to our tissues (Bohr’s Law). In a CO2 rich atmosphere, we actually live longer. Insurance actuaries have known for over a century that people who live in high altitude communities tend to live longer that those who live down near the coast. While small mammals typically live only 2 years, the blind vole rat and certain cave bats, who live in CO2 rich environments, have been known to live for 40 years.

    The entire CO2-is-bad debate needs to be critically reviewed. The IMO is not looking after our interests,

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