Shipping is divided on French president Emmanuel Macron’s call on Saturday to legislate for a global speed limit for ships.
Macron said ahead of hosting the G7 summit in Biarritz over the weekend that getting world shipping to commit to slower speeds would be at the top of his environmental agenda. France has already tabled the measure at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in April this year, something that has been supported by Greece, and will be discussed further at a technical meeting at IMO’s London headquarters in November.
Jean-Marc Roué, president of Armateurs de France, the French shipowners’ association, applauded Macron’s televised statement, telling Splash: “Today, the most relevant solution is also the most manageable and readily accessible, and that is to reduce the speed of bulk carriers, which make up two thirds of the world’s fleets.”
Armateurs de France and the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition of France worked together to submit the initial speed limit proposal to the IMO in April.
“As with all regulatory measures for shipping, ship speed regulations must be applied globally. Diplomacy should be used to bring all countries on board and the IMO must follow through with action,” Roué said.
Philippe Louis-Dreyfus, shipping’s original champion of slow-steaming legislation, who was also responsible for personally engaging Macron on the issue, was ecstatic with the French president’s public comments from Biarritz.
“I am particularly proud to see France taking the lead of such an important question,” Louis-Dreyfus told Splash. “Reducing/optimising speed is by far the easiest, most efficient, and simplest, solution to reduce ship emissions.”
Olaf Merk, the Paris-based ports and shipping expert at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) International Transport Forum (ITF), also applauded Macron’s move, saying it was necessary while the industry grappled with finding the right future technologies to slash its carbon footprint.
“Shipping – like other sectors – urgently needs to reduce emissions. Regulating ship speed is a good measure that can be implemented in the short term, in anticipation of the roll out of zero-carbon ships that will take some more time,” Merk said.
Faig Abbasov, shipping programme manager at the NGO, Transport & Environment, said speed limits represent the most immediate and effective measure to cut ship greenhouse gas emissions.
“The November meeting of the IMO will be key to make substantial progress on this. At stake is not only climate climate, but also IMO’s reputation as a capable authority to help clean up the sector,” Abbasov said.
Other short-term measures taken forward at IMO for further discussion in November are a goal-based operational efficiency metrics proposal championed by Denmark and a Japanese idea to install shaft power limits on all ships.
The world’s largest two shipping bodies have made their positions clear on the ship speed debate, distancing themselves from Macron’s call.
Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said his lobbying group was not in favour of the French proposal.
“Simply introducing a mandatory speed limit can have negative impacts on the efficiency of an engine, in the worst cases resulting in increasing emissions,” Platten told Splash.
Reducing the speed of ships can negatively impact developing economies, Platten argued, pointing out that reducing speed can result in developing economies being even further from their markets and their potential customers due to increased journey times.
BIMCO’s deputy secretary general, Lars Robert Pedersen, also said his organisation was against legislation on ship speeds.
“BIMCO agrees that sailing at lower speed generally means lower emissions,” Pedersen conceded, before adding: “Setting mandatory speed limits is however not the right tool to achieve the emissions reductions that we all seek. Emissions correlate narrowly to the power output of ships’ engines and regulating how much power a ship can utilise under normal operating conditions would achieve the goal of reducing emissions while also being enforceable from a regulatory perspective.”
Marin Dorsman, the secretary general of the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), told Splash yesterday the go-slow movement needs “careful consideration”.
“The shipping industry is a very diversified industry and mandatory speed reduction might have different and perhaps unwanted consequences,” Dorsman said.
Au cœur de ce #G7Biarritz : le climat et la biodiversité. L’océan et la forêt qui brûle en Amazonie nous appellent. Il nous faut leur répondre. Et de manière concrète.
Sur ces sujets, le temps n’est plus aux paroles, mais aux actes. Voici ceux que je défendrai : pic.twitter.com/0LVNrXKiUP
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 24, 2019