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Ocean Carriers Propose Emissions Reduction System

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday January 27th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Rather than dealing with a potpourri of environmental emissions regulations and fees, a group comprising the world’s largest international liner shipping companies is proposing a new global vessel efficiency system (VES) intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The 29-member World Shipping Council’s proposal asks the UN’s International Maritime Organization to take the lead in applying vessel efficiency design standards for new and existing vessels in the world fleet that will improve their carbon and fuel efficiency.

Under the VES proposal, newly built vessels would be subject to mandatory efficiency standards requiring them to be built with features and technologies that further improve their energy efficiency to reach defined levels, according to a WSC statement. “These standards would be similar in nature to the fuel efficiency standards required of cars and trucks in many countries around the world today. The standards would also be tiered with higher standards required over time as technology developments allow further improvements.”

The VES proposal also says that existing vessels would be subject to improved efficiency standards. But these standards would be “less aggressive,” WSC says, and would also be tiered over time. “Establishing efficiency standards for existing vessels is important since they operate for 25 – 30 years before being recycled.”

Under the VES proposal, existing vessels that meet the established efficiency standards would operate free of any fees, while those that fail to meet the standards would be subject to a fee assessed for each ton of fuel consumed. Fees would be deposited into a fund managed by the IMO.

“The IMO achieved significant success recently in reaching a legally-binding global agreement that will dramatically reduce NOx, SOx, and particulate matter emissions from ships around the world,” said Council CEO Chris Koch. “It is appropriate for the IMO to build on that success and establish an international regulatory system that can reduce carbon emissions as well.”

Recent discussions by world governments in Copenhagen did not produce a legally binding global agreement, WSC notes, and “given the notable differences on key issues, it appears that such an agreement would be very difficult to reach in the near-term.”

The Copenhagen debate did, however, reveal a broad consensus on the need to pursue greater energy efficiency across the world and across multiple industrial sectors, WSC continues.

“The VES proposal shares the same strategic focus of rewarding improved vessel efficiency as proposals recently made at the IMO by Japan and the U.S.,” WSC says. The VES would also provide for a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) fund that could be used for carbon efficiency research and development and other carbon reduction initiatives.

Last month the Environmental Protection Agency issued regulations that slap stringent emission control standards on ocean vessels and marine diesel engines. (See Triple Pundit’s coverage on Dec. 24.)

The EPA rules also follow international standards for ships outlined in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, a treaty that’s commonly called MARPOL.

Hounded to act both locally by the EPA and internationally by IMO, are shipping lines finally bowing to the inevitable? Maybe so. Or is it a subtle delaying tactic that adds a complicated international regulatory layer and fee system to the IMO treaty?

It’s rather late in the game to add new provisions and a fee system to a treaty that entered into force in 2005 and expect better and faster results than what was achieved in Copenhagen.


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