New study shows huge environmental & economic benefits of slowing down shipping

No technical or legal obstacles to regulating ship speed

Speed controls on shipping could save billions in lower ship fuel bills, cut air pollution and enable the shipping industry to play a full part in tackling climate change according to a new report.

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An immediate emissions cut of 15% is achievable, according to the study into the feasibility, costs and benefits of regulated slow steaming, commissioned by environmental groups Seas At Risk and T&E and undertaken by consultants C.E. Delft.

The report was prompted by a premature decision to dismiss speed reduction as a way to tackle climate change impacts from ships at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). That decision came despite the fact that the economic crisis had already led to many ships slowing down to save fuel.

Reducing average speeds by 10% will reduce emissions by 19% across the world fleet even after building and operating new ships to make up for lost capacity. The study found that emissions cuts from slower speed are immediate, don’t require prior investment, and have no adverse impact on ship operations.

The study will be launched today (28 February) at a side event at the 63rd session of the UN International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in London.

Bill Hemmings of Transport & Environment said:
“This study refutes all the knee-jerk objections to mandatory speed reduction that have been trotted out. The case for speed reduction is as compelling as it is obvious; it’s time for regulators to sit up and pay attention.”

“Sections of the shipping industry have slowed down for commercial reasons but industry refuses to consider this option as an environmental measure and wants to speed up again once the economic crisis is over even though slow steaming is cost free and flexibility options can be considered for the relatively small section of the market that needs to operate faster.  The industry seems to be acting against its own interests on this one. ”

John Maggs of Seas At Risk said:
“Regulated slow steaming can produce emissions reductions by 2030 and 2050 which rival any other reduction option being considered at IMO or EU level, and it can do so with a sizeable economic gain.”

“If we are serious about tackling shipping GHG emissions and making sure that the shipping industry contributes its fair share to tackling climate change, then we must avert any post-economic crisis emissions spike. The IMO – and industry - must look again at regulated slow steaming and give it full and proper consideration alongside their work on developing a market-based measure.”

The report’s presentation coincides with the resumption of deliberations at IMO concerning technical, operational and market-based approaches to tackle GHG emissions from shipping.

Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping operators, has reported extensively on its trials of slow steaming, confirming that technical concerns surrounding the impact on ship engines were completely unfounded.

 

Key findings from the study

  1. Slow steaming has significant multiple environmental benefits. A 10% reduction in fleet average speed results in a 19% reduction of CO2 emissions even after accounting for the emissions of additional ships needed to deliver the same amount of transport work and the emissions associated with building the necessary additional ships. Emissions of SOx, NOx and probably black carbon will decrease in line with fuel use and CO2 emissions. Lower ship speeds will also reduce whale strikes and other harmful wildlife interactions.
  2. Slow steaming has significant economic benefits. A global regime which limits average ship speeds to 85% of their average speed in 2007 would have benefits that outweigh the costs by USD 178-617 billion, depending on future fuel prices. The benefits of a 25% cut in speed could be as high as USD 883 billion.
  3. There are very few, if any, evident technical obstacles to slow steaming. Many shipping companies have experience with slow steaming in recent years. Even at very low engine loads, they have encountered only a few problems and these problems could be surmounted by small changes to operational procedures.
  4. Regulated slow steaming is legally feasible. Compulsory slow steaming can be imposed by a State on the ships flying its flag; on all ships in territorial waters; and in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the high seas as a condition of port entry of the imposing States.
  5. Regulated slow steaming is feasible to implement. Regulated slow steaming is relatively easy to monitor and enforce, and may have a lower administrative burden than some of the recently proposed MBMs.
  6. Regulated slow steaming delivers emission cuts in-sector. Regulated slow steaming ensures that emissions in the shipping sector will be reduced from business-as-usual levels, regardless of the fuel price and demand for shipping.
  7. Regulated slow steaming could avert a ship emissions spike as the global economy picks up. A cap on speed would reduce the possibility of an otherwise likely large and long-term spike in emissions as ships speed up in response to a recovery in demand.
Footnotes: 
  • International shipping accounts for around 3% of global CO2 emissions. Shipping emissions will grow as world trade grows and, together with aviation, are estimated to comprise 4% to 5.7% of global CO2 emissions in 2020 (UNEP) and some 10% to 32% in 2050 unless action is taken. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has been discussing what to do since it was tasked with reducing emissions from international shipping by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. An IMO action plan on market-based measures is now in its 10th year. A good number of policy options ranging from emissions trading, a global carbon levy, to efficiency trading and mandatory emission reductions by ship have been proposed, debated, studied and amended during this time and remain under consideration. 
  • The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for existing ships were agreed in 2011. At the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 61) in September 2010, the IMO considered a proposal from Seas At Risk and T&E (via the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC)) to apply speed restrictions to ships to reduce emissions, with CSC noting that average ship speeds have crept up over the past 20 years despite rising fuel costs and that fuel consumption and thus emissions are a cubic function of speed. However the IMO dismissed any further consideration of the proposal for regulating ship speed after only a very brief exchange of views. This new study investigates further and underpins the legal, environmental and economic feasibility of regulated slow steaming i.e. slow steaming at or beyond the level that companies initiate themselves.

Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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