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.