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  • Slowing down ships saves emissions and money … and works instantly

    Slowing down ships by regulating slow steaming can make a massive difference to the environmental impact of sea transport, and save ship operators lots of money. These are the conclusions of a report by the Dutch consultancy CE Delft commissioned by T&E and Seas At Risk.

    The two NGOs ordered the report in 2010 when, after almost no debate, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) dismissed speed reduction as a way of tackling shipping’s contribution to climate change, despite the fact that many ships had slowed down to save fuel costs during the economic downturn. The report’s findings were presented during a meeting of IMO’s environment committee late last month.

    CE Delft concludes that reducing average speed by 10% would reduce emissions by 19% across the world. A feasibility assessment says an immediate emissions cut of 15% is achievable, because slower speed requires no investment. Emissions cuts from slower speeds are immediate, and within a short time, shipping operators could reduce their fuel expenditure by billions of euros.

    T&E programme manager Bill Hemmings said: ‘This study refutes all the knee-jerk objections to mandatory speed reduction that have been put forward. Sections of the shipping industry have slowed down for commercial reasons but the sector as a whole refuses to consider this option as an environmental measure. The industry seems to be acting against its own interests – the case for speed reduction is as compelling as it is obvious.’

    The CE Delft study says mandatory speed limits are relatively easy to impose with modern technology, and could cost less to administer than measures still under discussion by the IMO.

    The IMO’s environment committee failed to make any progress on how the global shipping industry will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Nations could not agree to reduce the nine options for a market-based measure down to a manageable number, nor a structure for assessing them. Negotiations on the technical aspects of introducing an Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships also made no progress.

    The lack of progress puts more pressure on the EU to adopt a Europe-only approach, as it has threatened since 2003. The Commission is currently analysing options for a European measure with the help of outside consultants.