Japan pushes for engine power limitation system on all ships

A power limiter, not dissimilar to those used in automotives, has emerged as a dark horse contender to hasten shipping’s bid to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

With the fifth meeting of the intersessional working group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships starting tomorrow at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) ahead of next week’s meeting of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC), a Japanese proposal has gained belated traction.

MEPC will discuss ways to cut CO2 emissions by 40% compared to 2008 levels by 2030. As well as speed limits proposed by France and Greece and incentivised operational efficiency measures suggested by Denmark, Germany and Spain, Japan has called for an electric engine power limitation (EPL) system to be installed on all ships to keep a vessel’s engine power working at an optimum level.

The simple device can easily limit the engine propulsion power by adjusting a fuel index limiter on the ship’s engine control system without retrofitting a complicated system within the current regulatory framework.

According to the submission, seen by Splash, the EPL can be easily installed in a short time during a port visit without updating a ship’s EIAPP certificate and its NOx technical file.

The system would be password protected so that crew could change power systems in the event of an emergency.

Critics have voiced concern at the lack of transparency in the initial proposal making enforcement difficult. The device will also face the backlash from Volkswagen’s so-called Dieselgate scandal. The German carmaker has been forced in recent years to pay billions of dollars in fines after it emerged it had rigged the emissions control systems on millions of its cars.

Commenting on the proposal, Dr Tristan Smith from London’s UCL Energy Institute told Splash today: “The Japanese proposal could be effective, but needs more clarity about how the lack of transparency and the speed of implementation issues would guarantee that it could meet the IMO initial strategy objectives.”

Initial strategy clause 4.2 requires prioritisation of regulation that can reduce emissions before 2023 and objectives require imminent peaking.

The Japanese proposal has received backing from CIMAC, a global non-profit association representing the internal combustion machinery industry, who noted in a release on Friday that more thought should be given to the fact that power limitation may be a much more efficient way to address the GHG issue rather than speed limits.

“[D]e-rating the engine offers the possibility of lowering the vessel’s maximum speed and thereby optimizing the actual load point with the design load point. Such a measure, based on a power limitation on the vessel, would inherently provide a speed advantage for the best performer / best design,” CIMAC stated.

Splash will be carrying extensive reports from MEPC next week.

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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