This week, France is presenting a proposal to the International Maritime Organization to regulate the speed of commercial ships, in an effort to lower greenhouse gas emission. This is an interim and immediately applicable measure, which could be replaced by an overall yearly limit applied to each shipping line.
During their upcoming meeting in London from May 13 to May 17, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee’s (MEPC) is planning on discussing global speed regulations for ships. France, supported by its domestic ship-owners, is presenting a proposal to reduce the speed limit for certain types of ships, with the intention of lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The project is proposing to look at the ship categories used for the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) presented by the IMO in 2011. The idea is to define a category specific speed regulation framework, outlining whether the maximum speed is maintained or reduced, the calculation method in relation to the available data, the implementation tools, the sanctions, and the exceptions or the rules applicable to newcomers on the market.
Mainly aimed at bulk carriers
France already decided which categories it thinks should be regulated, and it has been vocal about it. According to the French delegation, this regulation should not apply to container ships. For economic reasons rather than environmental ones, containerized shipping lines have already significantly reduced their ship’s speed, when they had to absorb the increase in volume coupled with a growth rate decline in the global shipping industry. According to France “the relation between the ship’s speed and its greenhouse gas emissions is not linear. Consequently, imposing an additional speed reduction would not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
The proposal also suggests excluding passenger ships, and ships for which a speed reduction would induce a counter-productive modal shift, as in a shift to a less energy efficient mode of transport.
In conclusion, after all the exceptions are taken out, one can see that the French project is mainly aimed at ships carrying solid and liquid bulk items.
According to its advocates, the main advantage of this measure is that it can be implemented immediately and requires little or no technical modification of the ships. This would help the IMO reach its short-term objective: capping greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
Towards an emission cap for every shipping line
But to meet its medium and long-term objectives, i.e. lowering the greenhouse gas emission rate of a ton of goods transported by at least 40% before 2030 and at least 50% by 2050 (as compared with 2008), the organization will need to find additional measures. But these measures will have to be created in compliance with the – longer – international lawmaking process, and the development of new measurement tools. Long term, France therefore suggests – and this is the second part of its proposal – to replace the speed limit with an overall greenhouse gas emission cap for every fleet of every shipping line. This will let each maritime shipping player devise its own implementation mechanism to meet the objective (speed regulation, technological innovation, …).
When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of container ships, France recommends amending Phase 3 of the EEDI standards. This index is used for ships built after 2013, using the average energy performance of ships built between 1999 and 2009. It sets the following goals :
Phase 0: the energy consumption level of ships built between 2013 and 2015 must be at least the same as the level of reference.
Phase 1: the energy consumption level of ships built between 2015 and 2020 must be at least 10% lower than the level of reference.
Phase 2: the energy consumption level of ships built between 2020 and 2025 must be at least 20% lower than the level of reference.
Phase 3: the energy consumption level of ships built after 2025 must be at least 30% lower than the level of reference.
According to a study published by Transport & Environment in September 2017, these objectives have been largely exceeded. 71% of the 258 ships built between 2013 and 2017 analyzed in the study already comply with phase 3, and only 9% used technological innovations to meet the requirement. Enough to say there is untapped potential that policy makers can draw inspiration from.