Ship speed limits are legal and save fuel

October 26, 2011

Requiring ships to slow down is an environmentally beneficial option that is both legal and does not damage ships. These were just some of the findings to emerge from a seminar earlier this month organised by T&E and another NGO, Seas at Risk.

[mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]As more evidence emerges that the environmental impact of shipping can be reduced by lower speeds, the seminar on so-called ‘slow steaming’ brought together a number of bodies working on shipping.

The Danish shipping giant Maersk reported that its container ships have been running at 10-15 knots instead of the usual 25 knots. This has resulted in engines running on average at only 35% of maximum power, down from 60% four years ago. It has not led to any engine damage, despite concerns that there could be a build-up of soot and loss of lubrication. In fact exhaustive tests by Maersk found that slow steaming poses no technical, operational or safety issues, and a company official said ‘slow steaming is here to stay’.

The Dutch consultancy CE Delft reported that global and regional speed limit policies are legally feasible, could be implemented without great effort, and could result in dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions and other air pollutants. Enforcement measures could include denying entry into ports to ships that had exceeded speed limits. CE’s full study into ship speed limits will be published next month.
Report on the seminar at

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