Seaspan Hamburg entering Port of Oakland Credit Dreamstime_m_212514967
Credit Dreamstime_m_212514967

Shipping has made mere  “baby steps” towards decarbonisation, according to the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC), even as industry figures hailed the shift towards a cleaner sector as great progress.

Shipping costs are already high for consumers of the service, but new measures to tackle climate change will mean that, even as demand for vessel services decreases post-pandemic, the costs for carriers will rise as regulations become more stringent.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary general Kitack Lim hailed the latest meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) a success, saying he is “encouraged by the commitment” in discussions towards the revision of the Initial greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy.

There is an expectation that it will see a doubling in the level of ambition to zero emissions by 2050, rather than 2018’s agreement to reduce emissions by 50% of 2008 GHG levels. However, the new target is not expected to be agreed until next year.

According to carrier representative the World Shipping Council (WSC), MEPC 78’s approval of a package of short-term measures, including the Energy Efficiency of Existing Ships Index (EEXI), the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) and the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), are all measures of the emissions from existing vessels.

CII ranks ship efficiency from highly efficient at Grade A, with Grade E the lowest, and from January 2023, CII rules will require vessels in Grade D to improve efficiency within three years and Grade E ships will have just a year to improve. CII expects ship grades will be reviewed annually and will become increasingly stringent, with those vessels in Grades D and E expected to draw up a SEEMP on how the ship will comply.

Rising costs might be something that would be considered anathema to any business, but John Butler, WSC president and CEO, believes the industry should embrace change.

“Transitioning global shipping from a carbon dependent industry into one that operates without greenhouse gas emissions is a massive task,” he said

He added that the WSC was encouraged by the growing number of member states looking to move the maritime sector onto a faster path to net zero.

“Container and vehicle carriers are already investing in the development of zero GHG technologies and are committed to enabling the industry’s transition to zero. Governments need to take decisive action now to provide clear regulatory structures and market signals that drive investment and support ambitious front runners,” he said.

Even so, CSC, a coalition of environmental NGOs, argues that the industry is still moving too slow, given that it lost a lot of time when the industry should have been looking at decarbonisation measures, but failed to move on the issue.

John Maggs, of CSC, said: “States are now talking about ending ship climate emissions by 2050, but years of inaction mean that target is no longer good enough. A failure to act earlier means the shipping industry has already burned a large part of its 1.5°C carbon budget. Talk of enhanced ambition is welcome, but having failed to act earlier the shipping industry must now halve its emissions by 2030 and decarbonise entirely by 2040, not 2050, to keep global heating below 1.5°C.”

If Mr Maggs’s view is true, the requirement to move further and faster will drive maritime costs higher in the next 20 years. And for Faig Abbasov, director of shipping at Transport & Environment, actions in the short term will determine whether the industry is serious about tackling climate change.

He said: “For technological and ecological transition in shipping, tomorrow matters more than next week. Therefore, the litmus test for IMO progress should be by how much GHG it can cut or how much sustainable and scalable fuels it can drive in shipping in this decade. Any action that is short of that is only a smokescreen.”

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