More harm than good: short sea shippers speak out against the ECA


Last week, shipping industry leaders spoke out against a proposed low emissions area, suggesting that the proposal could actually be damaging for the environment, whilst crippling the short sea shipping industry.

The North American Emission Control Area (ECA) proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would require that all vessels travelling within 200 nautical miles of the North American coast run off an ultra-low sulphur content fuel.

However, on the fourth of March, at a Congressional hearing titled “Maritime Transportations Regulations: Impacts on Safety, Security, Jobs and the Environment”, Rod Jones and Bill Terry, President and CEO of the CSL Group and Eagle Rock spoke out against the bill, noting a series of flaws that could undermine the whole purpose of the control area.

The CSL Group operates throughout the Americas and globally specialises in short sea shipping, using much smaller vessels on routes that stick close to the shoreline.

Eagle Rock Aggregates are a constructions and building materials company who use short sea shipping services to transport the building materials they produce, for the construction of roadways and buildings.

Mr. Jones, CEO of CSL spoke of a series of concerns that the EPA failed to consider when drafting the ECA in regards to short sea vessels.

Whilst the EPA has suggested that converting to the new, more expensive, low-emission fuel will as a result cause a three percent increase on shipping prices, it only considers vessels that work on a trans-oceanic route.

These much larger vessels would only be expected to enter the low emissions zone momentarily on their journey.

For short sea operators along the coast line, there will be no respite with Jones proposing that the new fuel requirement would result in cost increases 10 times that of those predicted by the agency.

In his testimony, Mr. Jones stated: “CSL calculated that on average, each ship would bear about $815,000 of additional annual fuel costs.”

“For CSL alone, the cost would exceed US$14 million per year.”

The consequential rise in shipping prices would result in a massive increase in reliance towards land-based transport such as trucks and trains. With one short sea vessel being capable of carrying as much as nearly 2,000 trucks the danger is clear to see – A massive influx of land based transport will result in an increase of traffic and greenhouse gas production, the very thing that the EPA are trying to reduce.

Mr Terry continues by stating the widespread damage that such a move would have on the surrounding industries that rely on short sea shipping, such as his own.

Increased shipping costs would result in higher prices for construction materials, with Mr. Terry saying “We at Eagle Rock have invested in an infrastructure that relies upon ships to deliver our product…The ECA will now penalise our business model that by all accounts, is eco-friendly based on the favourability of marine transportation.”

Both executives propose that the EPA modify the current geographical outline as smaller vessels have very little impact on coastal air quality once reaching the average cruising distance of 50 nautical miles.

They therefore propose that the vessels be made to run off of the new, ultra-low sulphur fuel up to a distance of 50 nautical miles, rather than being considered under the 200 nautical mile boundary applied to larger vessels.

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