Greece comes out in favour of steep ship power cuts

Slow steaming regulation has been holed below the waterline with Greece jumping ship ahead of imminent discussions at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters to thrash out short-term measures to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the sector.

Greece – and many of its owners – had previously been strong backers of the French-led bid to mandate ship speed reductions.

However, Greece – along with the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) – has now come out in favour of a ship power limiting proposal, similar to what Japan, BIMCO and others are suggesting. Nevertheless, the steep power cuts called for by Greece – with boxships, for instance, being asked to slash their main engine power by two thirds – is tantamount to making slow steaming mandatory.

Greece’s prescriptive submission, building on an existing proposal backed by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), supplements the strengthened Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (super SEEMP), making it mandatory for every ship of a particular sector to have power limitations.

“[T]here would be no intentional or unintentional circumventions of set technical requirements, which might otherwise be possible, for example, when providing various goal-based options,” the UGS stated in a release, taking a swipe at other proposals due for discussion at IMO’s London headquarters soon.

The proposed measure prescribes the limit of the main engine power that ships over 5,000 gt can use under normal circumstances to maintain the level of CO2 emissions from ships at a 2012 levels over a three-year phase-in period, commencing before 2023. The sectoral prescriptive approach it takes prescribes that bulk carriers and tankers reduce their main engine power by 50% and containerships by 66%. The measure includes a review clause to allow for rectifying action by the IMO if necessary.

“The proposal is primarily compatible with the modus operandi of bulk/tramp shipping, where charterers play a determining role in the ship’s operation and this is why the shipowners’ commitment alone to a ship’s operational efficiency through goal-based measures, KPIs etc may not be enough to effect a change in the ship’s carbon footprint,” the UGS stated.

“Charterers should clearly be obliged to adhere to any measure adopted to reduce GHG emissions from ships”, the president of the UGS, Theodore Veniamis underlined.

“Greece’s proposal is simple, transparent, easily enforceable and accommodates sectoral specificities without distorting competition, which is a paramount consideration. Moreover, it allows for early action and beginning of implementation prior to 2023, leads to direct absolute GHG emissions reductions, to SOx, NOx and underwater noise reductions, while it also factors in safety and allows for medium to long-term innovation, rewarding more efficient ships. Above all, it lays the foundation for the shipping industry to truly decarbonise by engineering the behavioural change required by all commercial operators of vessels to shift to zero-carbon technologies or alternative fuels when these become broadly available,” Veniamis claimed.

There is now a united front coalescing against slow steaming with Maersk coming out in support of BIMCO’s proposal to limit ship’s power systems as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the short term.

Maersk had earlier been supporting a goal-based plan to slash the industry’s carbon footprint, but facing a growing coalition of slow steaming supporters it has come out in favour of the BIMCO proposal, which is similar to an idea mooted by Japan at an IMO meeting earlier this year.

“Focusing on power instead of speed limitation will, first and foremost, help to achieve the CO2 reduction goals set by the IMO. Next, it will reward the most efficient ships and last but not least, it will stimulate the necessary innovation in the development of CO2-neutral propulsion technologies needed to truly decarbonise shipping,” Maersk wrote in an email to Maritime Denmark.

A power limiter, not dissimilar to those used in automotives, was promoted by the Japanese delegation at the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in April.

“Measuring a ship’s speed is not an accurate exercise, therefore, other avenues have been investigated. It has been concluded that limiting ships’ propulsion power can be controlled accurately and at the same time, it has a close correlation to speed,” BIMCO stated in a release earlier this month.

The slow-steaming debate is being led by French president Emanuel Macron. Macron brought up the subject while hosting the G7 summit in Biarritz last month. The French government has also this week suggested raising taxes for shipping and aviation fuel.

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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