Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Slow progress on cutting GHG emissions at IMO, speed limits unpopular with many countries

Article-Slow progress on cutting GHG emissions at IMO, speed limits unpopular with many countries

After all the hype and public protests those familiar with the workings of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will not be surprised to learn there were no major announcements coming out of last week’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting, and apparent new favourite – going slower – hit a speed hump.

It was more a case of some progress being made, and perhaps a clearer idea what some member states would, and would not, accept.

Read more: Shipping comes under pressure from diverse groups over climate change and emissions

What was agreed were tightened emissions targets for new vessels under the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) covering seven different vessels types, most significantly in terms of cargo carrying vessels – for containerships.

Apart from containerships the accelerated targets also cover general cargo ships, hybrid diesel-electric cruise ships, and LPG and LNG carriers.

ICS Secretary General, Guy Platten commented: “We welcome the adoption of important new IMO regulations to strengthen and bring forward the application of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for several different types of new build vessel, including containerships.

The new measures would reduce CO2 emissions from shipping by around 750m tonnes 2022 and 2050 according to analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

“We are keen to see further progress on developing more short term measures to help the existing fleet reduce its emissions, and are optimistic that IMO Member States can agree some additional regulations, during 2020, combining prescriptive and goal based approaches that will deliver further GHG reductions before 2023.”

The next meeting will consider additional requirements for new ships from 2025 and improved efficiency existing vessels from 2025 within the EEDI framework.

“IMO’s decision to move up and tighten energy efficiency targets for some new ships is a modest but necessary step to combat climate change. Next, IMO will consider energy efficiency measures for existing ships to reduce emissions in the near-term, commented Dan Rutherford, ICCT marine programme director.

ICS believes that the IMO should be able to quickly measures such speed optimisation. “We believe that these can best be addressed in part through the ‘Super SEEMP’, as proposed by ICS and other shipowner associations – the mandatory external audit of Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans as part of the ISM Code. This will require shipping companies to demonstrate they have done everything possible to improve fuel efficiency in pursuit of the 2030 target,” Platten said.

The ICS noted what appeared to be widespread support for the proposals.

However, mandatory speed limits which are supported both from many major shipowners, especially from Greece, and a number of environmental pressure groups, a short term measure to reduce GHG emissions proved unpopular with a number of member states.

Read more: Over 100 shipowners back speed limits to reduce GHG emissions

ICS’ Platten said: “Although no final decisions have been taken it was clear that the majority of IMO Member States, including major economies such as China, India, the United States and many South American nations, had little appetite at present for initiatives such as mandatory speed limits, expressing concern that these would reduce the efficiency of maritime transport, in effect increasing the distance between economies and their markets, while acting as a disincentive to the take-up of new CO2 reduction technologies.”

Speed limits do remain on the table and will be worked on further at the next GHG working group in November.

Looking ahead Platten urged the IMO to focus on the development of low or zero carbon fuels to reach its GHG emission reduction goals for the industry. 

“While short term measures are important, ICS continues to assert that IMO needs to move quickly onto considering the critical long term measures that will help the industry to deliver the very ambitious target of a 50% total cut of GHG emissions by 2050 regardless of trade growth.  This can only realistically be achieved with the introduction of commercially viable zero – or near zero – CO2 emitting propulsion systems, which means that accelerated research and development programmes have to be at the centre of the IMO strategy," he said.

Others from environmental lobby group were rather less charitable about the pace of progress at the IMO, or hopes that any real progress will be made in the future. John Maggs of Seas At Risk and president of the Clean Shipping Coalition, commented: “The sound of deckchairs being rearranged was deafening at IMO this week. Faced with demands for urgent action to tackle the climate emergency, the IMO became a parody of itself with those that never wanted shipping climate action in the first place ensuring little or no progress was made.”


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.