Priority shipping

90% of world trade is today carried by ships, meaning much of what we consume has to be transported to us across international waters. That transport has an impact on the climate, the environment and human health.

For instance, ships burn heavy-fuel oil (HFO), which comprises the dregs at the bottom of the barrel from the oil refining process and is the cheapest and dirtiest fuel on the market. And since it accounts for 76% of fuel used and carried for on-board use by Arctic-going ships, it puts polar habitats – already fragile – at high risk. Its combustion produces black carbon particles that accelerate ice melting by reducing the reflection of sunlight by ice back into space and absorbing higher solar radiation. So, you’d think that banning the stuff from the Arctic, at least, would be a no brainer. But even by the start of 2017, the matter had yet to make the agenda of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the UN agency charged with regulating international shipping. T&E has been working with the Clean Arctic Alliance to generate support for a ban, starting with action in the European Parliament. Last year, we helped secure two resolutions in the environment committee that if the IMO fails to act, the EU will take action.

“The amount of fuel used by a ship is proportional to the third power of its speed. Slowing down even a little bit can lead to substantial fuel efficiency gains." – Faig Abbasov, T&E shipping officer Deutsche Welle, 29 December 2017.

Slow down

But the shipping sector is also one of the fastest growing sources of CO2 and could be responsible for more than 17% of global emissions by 2050 if measures are not  implemented. But calls for urgent action to reduce ship greenhouse gas emissions have been met with heavy push-back by many states and big industry groups meeting at the IMO. While that body talks and talks over agreeing just an initial plan, T&E has argued that the obvious immediate measure is to regulate ship speed, with the feasibility and effectiveness of slow steaming having been proven during the recession. Last year, the Clean Shipping Coalition, of which T&E is a member, published a study which showed that limiting ship speed could, by 2030, see CO2 emission reductions of up to 33% from the three main ship types: containers, tankers and bulk carriers. This would result in a global in-sector saving of around 200 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Another study for T&E found that almost three-quarters (71%) of all new containerships, which emit around a quarter of global ship CO2 emissions, already comply with the post-2025 requirements of the IMO’s efficiency standard for new ship designs (the so-called EEDI). It confirms that the regulation is not fit for purpose to drive better designs or technological innovation.

As 2017 came to a close, EU governments and MEPs agreed that Europe should act on shipping emissions from 2023 if the IMO fails to deliver effective global measures. T&E welcomed the agreement as Europe cannot indefinitely outsource its climate responsibility to the IMO given that the UN agency has repeatedly shown itself incapable of delivering the required level of ambition.

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