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Bloc tension continues

The Naval Architect: February 2017

1 January 2017 saw the introduction of new rules on operating in Polar waters, and the new mandatory IGF code for ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels.  

If some industry analysts believe the IMO’s strategy on CO2 is sufficiently aggressive, European authorities, not to mention environmental groups, do not agree. The European Parliament’s environmental committee sought to put the pressure on in December when it agreed to include emissions from shipping in the EU emissions trading system from 2023 if the IMO did not produce a further global measure to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2021.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) says the decision will polarise and impede current discussions on additional CO2 reduction measures at the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO). ICS believes emissions-trading is inappropriate for international shipping, which mostly comprises SMEs typically operating less than 10 ships.

“The EU ETS has been an abject failure. Its unilateral application to global shipping would create market distortion while generating trade disputes with China and other Asian nations, as happened when the EU tried unsuccessfully to impose its ETS on international aviation,” said Simon Bennett, ICS director of policy and external relations. The plenary of the European Parliament is expected to vote on the Committee’s report in early 2017.

IMO secretary general Kitack Lim intervened in the debate, warning that “a final decision to extend the EU-ETS to shipping emissions would not only be premature but would seriously impact on the work of IMO to address GHG emissions from international shipping. Inclusion of emissions from ships in the EU-ETS significantly risks undermining efforts on a global level.”

This prompted a response from environmental NGOs at IMO. Faig Abbasov, clean shipping officer of Transport & Environment (T&E), a member of the Clean Shipping Coalition, said: “It is wrong for the head of the IMO to condemn the European Parliament’s actions, when it has the direct legitimacy of European citizens, and is working hard to protect those citizens from the impact of shipping’s ever-increasing contribution to climate change. We are not aware of Mr Lim writing to those countries and industry bodies that have consistently been blocking progress on ship GHG emissions at IMO for years; it appears as if he is siding with them now.”

The issue of CO2 emissions has always been controversial and Tom Strang senior vice president, maritime affairs at Carnival says the general industry position is clear in that it makes more sense for the IMO to take the lead on the issue. “It would be challenging,” he says, “to see how you could get regional CO2 regulations for what is a global problem to align with a global system that the IMO is developing. While there is an understanding that pressure will continue to be brought to bear by green interests, we would prefer to see a solution that is global in its nature. The IMO is taking action and has an aggressive campaign to do that.”

The Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) process is starting and emissions are being recorded. By 2023 there should be a mechanism to regulate greenhouse gas emissions within the IMO framework. “The industry is looking closely at the potential shape of the mechanism and the costs involved as well as the impact involved,” says Strang. “Clearly all the emphasis that has gone into technical solutions to save fuel and look at cleaner fuels is going to be important in that discussion and the challenge will be: does the solution you choose increase or decrease greenhouse gas emissions? There is a lot of debate around that.”

Meanwhile, the mandatory Polar Code for ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters, entered into force on 1 January 2017, and its requirements, which were specifically tailored for the polar environments, go above and beyond those of existing IMO conventions such as MARPOL and SOLAS, which are applicable globally and will still apply to shipping in polar waters.
Both the Arctic and Antarctic are becoming increasingly popular tourist destinations. These challenges need to be met without compromising either safety of life at sea or the sustainability of the polar environments.

The Polar Code sets out mandatory standards that cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training and environmental protection matters that apply to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles.

Protective thermal clothing, ice removal equipment, enclosed lifeboats and the ability to ensure visibility in ice, freezing rain and snow conditions are among the Code’s mandatory safety requirements. The regulations extend to the materials used to build ships intended for polar operation, and all tankers under the Code will have to have double hulls. From an environmental perspective, the code prohibits or strictly limits discharges of oil, chemicals, sewage, garbage, food wastes and many other substances.

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