A matter of sovereignty

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

07 April 2016


Ahead of this month’s MEPC, environmental campaigners are once again pushing their position that shipping must be singled out as a special case when it comes to regulating CO2 emissions. The argument that shipping as a global activity needs special regulation rather than allowing flag states to determine their own policy for their ships under the COP21 Paris agreement is one that does not hold water. Leaving aside the fact that it is a view which clearly does not even have support from the majority of countries that made the agreement, attempting to put pressure on the IMO to make a regulation will not achieve their aims because the IMO is not able to regulate for every sector of shipping. Its remit does not run to fishing vessels, certain ships both cargo and passenger engaged only on domestic voyages, some inland ships, private super yachts, and many more beside. Ships are a form of transport and while they may be far larger they are no different from trucks or trains and private vehicles that also transport goods and people across international borders. Visit almost any country in Europe, Africa, Asia or America and you will see vehicles from other states operating freely. For some countries, particularly island nations, shipping is an essential service and it should most definitely be in the remit of that country to determine if it would prefer any cuts in emissions to be made in other areas and not shipping. Another reason why all ships should not be lumped together is that different ship types have specialist roles that allow their emissions to be attributed to particular activities. Dredgers and similar ships have civil engineering roles, cable layers to communications, ferries to mass transport, some offshore vessels to power generation. And shouldn’t vessels involved in building and servicing offshore wind farms and other forms of alternative energy have their emissions accounted for in that activity?