IMO announce historic agreement to lower shipping emissions

 21 Jul 2011 03.50pm

  • IMO agree on legislation to cut shipping emissions by as much as 30% by 2030

  • 55 member states meet in London to finalize historic agreement

Members of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) met in London last week to finalize a historic agreement that is hoped will cut emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2030.

The issue of tackling the rise of pollution from the shipping industry took a giant step forward, as 55 of the world’s most influential maritime nations voted to adopt mandatory measures to aid emission reduction.

Commenting at the close of the session, which ran from July 11th - 15th at the IMO Headquarters, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos expressed satisfaction at the many and various significant achievements with which the session should be credited.

“Although not by consensus – which of course would be the ideal outcome – the Committee has now adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), introducing mandatory technical and operational measures for the energy efficiency of ships. Let us hope that the work to follow on these issues will enable all Members to build the consensus that evaded the Committee this time,” he said.

The proposals set within the mandate would mean that ships of over 400 tons built after 2013 will have to improve their carbon efficiency by 10 percent.To keep in line with new and advancing technologies the efficiency improvement will tighten by 10 percent each five years there after. This would mean that ships built between 2020 and 2024 would need to improve efficiency by 20 percent, and then by 30 percent if built post 2024.

However, the impact of the Energy-Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) could be weakened significantly, as a number of developing countries including China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have managed to secure a waiver to prevent them from implementing the legislation until 2019. Not only will this encourage these countries to build their own ships domestically, but will do little to discourage European ship builders from doing the same until the standards are enforced.

The developing countries were granted the waiver on the grounds that more time was needed to augment new technologies that will make for more energy efficient vessels.

Observers, whilst applauding the agreement, have been quick to highlight that more could be done to improve the efficiency of the existing fleets operating on the world’s oceans -currently responsible for nearly 5 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

A recent study by the IMO itself indicated that this total is expected to increase by as much as 72 percent by the end of the decade, as the demand for seaborne containerized goods hits an all time high. It is this issue that the proposals of the EEDI ignore and what campaigners believe needs to be addressed.

Speaking to the Guardian, Peter Boyd, chief operating officer for the campaign group Carbon War Room, stated that by initiating the EEDI now on existing fleets then the industry could save $50 billion a year in fuel costs, and 220 million tons of CO2 a year until 2020. The current proposals under the EEDI would see a $5 billion a year saving on fuel costs and 20 million ton saving on CO2 emissions, Mr Boyd added.

Despite the European Commission seeing the agreement as an “important signal” that the maritime sector is taking greenhouse gas emission seriously, they to echo the sentiments that the IMO needs to do more to tackle the issue. The EU therefore has not ruled out the possibility of engaging the issue at a regional level.

According to the ESPO (European Sea Ports Organisation) the EU have already began to assess the impact of a series of measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions, including the introduction of vessel speed restrictions, emission trade schemes and by introducing a bunkering levy. ESPO report that they will make a decision on what steps to take by the end of the year.

The EC furthered their commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gases last week after announcing plans to cut sulphur emissions, caused by ships, by as much as 90 percent. Under the proposal the sulphur content of fuels would be reduced from 1.5 percent to 0.1 percent in sensitive areas including the Baltic and the English Channel from 2015. The plans could save the industry as much as $15.6 billion.

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