Looks good on paper

Adam Foster
Adam Foster

23 June 2017


Yesterday four of the leading shipping trade associations – INTERCARGO, International Chamber of Shipping and INTERTANKO – announced they have made a joint proposal to the IMO concerning ambitious CO2 reductions by the international shipping sector. In a detailed submission, the industry bodies have proposed that IMO Member States should immediately adopt two Aspirational Objectives on behalf of the international shipping sector: * To maintain international shipping’s annual total CO2 emissions below 2008 levels; and * To reduce CO2 emissions per tonne of cargo transported one kilometre, as an average across international shipping, by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008. In addition, the industry associations have suggested that IMO should give consideration to another possible objective of reducing international shipping’s total annual CO2 emissions, by an agreed percentage by 2050 compared to 2008, as a point on a continuing trajectory of further CO2 emissions reduction. The purpose of the initiative is to ensure that the IMO remains the controlling body for shipping as the four organisations are opposed to regional regulations. However, the joint industry submission emphasises that any objectives adopted by IMO must not imply any commitment to place a binding cap on the sector’s total CO2 emissions or on the CO2 emissions of individual ships. While the initiative may at first glance look good on paper, it is difficult if not impossible to reconcile the aspirations to reduce CO2 from shipping while at the same time emphasising that there should be no limits on individual ships or the industry’s total emissions. It is understandable that the organisations’ individual shipowning members do not want their own activities curtailed in any way but by pushing for the IMO to agree a fixed percentage reduction for the industry as a whole then there would be no alternative to each owner and ship being affected detrimentally. At least by pushing the aspirations through to 2050, ensures that almost no existing vessel will be affected as even those now on order are unlikely to be sailing in 2050 being around 30 years old. What it does do is commit shipping to chasing technologies that may not even be possible. As things stand, the only option is a switch to LNG coupled with some very dramatic efficiency improvements as LNG by itself only offers a 20% reduction in CO2 compared to HFO. Putting faith in fuel cells and renewables may be a possibility but any developments will have to come much faster than they have to date.