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Friday, April 26, 2019 

The shipping industry has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050, with an interim 2030 target of 40% carbon intensity below the 2008 baseline, says UK Chamber of Shipping Policy Director Anna Ziou.

Next month, the IMO is going to discuss measures to assist the low-carbon transition in the industry, including proposals from France and Greece for prescriptive speed reduction regulation and introduction of a ship fuel consumption cap. The idea of regulating speed limits to slow down ships to cut fuel consumption and carbon intensity of the industry has, so far, been politically unacceptable due to its impact on trade. UKCS believes that although the intentions are positive, the proposals lack detail, while implementation and enforcement will prove problematic.

Ziou (pictured) says that if the IMO decides to rely on prescriptive speed regulation to meet its short-term target, it would delay the low-carbon transition and store up greater costs later on for the industry.

According to Ziou, instead: "we should incentivise and not penalise those shipowners that have been proactive and have already implemented a number of operational and technological measures to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, the speed limit proposals lack the principle of a level playing field which could present a barrier to innovation."

She dismisses the argument that cutting ships speed further might deliver fuel savings for current ships, by pointing out that this is based on speed simulations studies where ships will always drive at a certain speed. Actual fuel consumption depends on many factors and potential savings would be negated by the loss of capacity which would require additional vessels to be built and recycled at a later stage. Speed reduction could lead to cargoes shifting to other modes, resulting in further increases to overall emissions, while tidal constraints at some ports could cause extra emissions due to waiting times, particularly in the short sea and passenger sectors.

Another negative impact is the fact that the speed limit will be counterproductive about other IMO regulations as low load engine operation increases emissions of NOx, PM and Black Carbon.

As the average speed of ships is at its lowest ever for the last decade, further reductions may provide a false reassurance that action in reducing emissions is being taken and distracting the IMO from other effective measures - in particular the increased emissions of NOx, PM and black carbon that may result from low-load engine operation.

Ziou concludes: "The core conclusion is that unless the IMO ensures that there is a level playing field and the right direction on the pathway going forward we might miss the boat.  We have set ambitious targets, but we need the IMO to support these with appropriate policy for the industry to realise it. These issues require long-term perceptive and not just short-sighted quick fixes. We need measures to make the targets sets work in real business conditions."

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