IMO shyly starts tackling GHG emissions from shipping sector

At the recent meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) last week in London, new requirements for the collection of data on greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping sector were adopted. This means that the consumption data of every fuel oil used for large ships (5,000 gross tonnage and above) will be monitored. These ships account for approximately 85% of CO2 emissions from international shipping, the IMO reports.

The mandatory data collection system represents the basis for future decision-making to reduce emissions from the international shipping sector. According to a roadmap adopted by the MEPC, an initial GHG strategy shall be agreed upon in 2018. Nevertheless, the IMO faces harsh criticism by NGOs and several politicians, according to the Guardian, as potential measures to reduce GHG emissions have been delayed to 2023. It is expected that any stringent action will not be implemented before 2023.

In 2011, the IMO had already mandated energy-efficiency measures in order to increase energy efficiency of newly built ships by 30% by 2025 compared to 2014. However, shipping could account for no less than 17% of global GHG emissions by 2050, as reported by the Guardian. Already today, emissions match approximately the carbon footprint of Germany. Moreover, the shipping industry’ emissions are not covered by climate change agreements such as the Paris deal.

Although many of the world’s biggest shipowners and charterers, including Maersk, have called for more ambitious action, a group of countries has successfully prevented more progress. This is also due to the shipping system, in which primarily flag states under which the ships are registered are responsible for the implementation of regulations. Moreover, the shipping sector is still affected by an economic downturn since the crisis in 2009.

The measures taken by the IMO seem in contrast to those adopted by the ICAO, which recently decided to set up a market measure to tackle global aviation emissions.

During the same meeting, the regulatory authority for international shipping also committed to a global cap in the sulphur content of the fuel oil used by ships of 0.50% m/m (mass/mass) starting from the 1 January 2020.


(Image: MAERSK EDINBURGH near Cuxhaven. Photo credit: cuxclipper on Flickr)