Adoption of the EEDI means that ships built after 2013 will have to meet a minimum level of energy efficiency, with different standards applying to different commercial ships. These standards will be strengthened over time, with the aim of a 10% improvement for ships built in 2015-19, 15-20% for 2020-24, and 30% for ships delivered after 2024. But as the average life of a ship is around 30 years, it will take a decade or two before the effects of the EEDI start to become widespread.
The agreement ends a process that has gone on for nearly five years. Various developing nations – among the loudest were China and Saudi Arabia – said EEDI rules should only apply to developed countries. Last September, the deadlock was broken by nine developed nations who said the EEDI should become a mandatory global measure. After intense negotiations, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee voted in London earlier this month to make it mandatory by a convincing margin of 49 to five. The five objectors were China, Chile, Brazil, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, although India, South Africa, Cuba and others also objected but were not eligible to vote.
During the negotiations in London, developing countries secured some technical help, and a delay in the deadline for the EEDI rules to come into effect. This effectively means that new ships registered in developing countries need to be EEDI-compliant by July 2019, whereas new ships registered in developed nations will have to be EEDI-compliant by January 2013. Environmental groups fear that because this delay is given to countries and not individual ships, the practical effect will be that new ships built in developed countries could be flagged in a developing state.
T&E programme officer Bill Hemmings said: ‘This decision amounts to the world’s first ever global, legally binding climate measure in any sector, and in that sense should be welcomed. However, the delay in implementation, the potential loophole allowing ships built in developed countries to also secure an exemption, and the fact that the EEDI will only have a gradual effect as new ships are built, means that additional measures covering existing ships are urgently needed. If the IMO does not deliver on that, it will be up to the EU to take the lead with the unilateral action it has talked about for many years.’
For a briefing on the EEDI see: https://tinyurl.com/3b54wdl.
In a separate development, the EU has accepted the IMO’s recommendations on the sulphur content of marine fuels. The effect will be that the sulphur limit for all ships will come down to 0.5% in 2020 (it is currently 3.5%), and the limit for all ships in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea (so called ‘Emission Control Areas’) will come down to 0.1% from 0.5% in 2015. Instead of using low-sulphur fuel, ship operators can also use ‘alternative abatement technologies’ that clean a ship’s exhaust so that the pollution is removed.
A majority of the world’s ship owners would prefer a shipping fuel tax to shipping being subjected to an emissions trading scheme. That was the message from the ship owners’ umbrella organisation ECSA at a conference in Brussels last month. The ECSA has no formal position on the issue, but most of its members are known to favour a shipping fuel tax. The likelihood of any such tax being introduced is small, as few countries would agree to a tax going to an international body such as the IMO.