GHG Reduction: 115 shipping companies, environmental groups call IMO to slow steaming

Dr. Dakuku Peterside, former Director General of NIMASA

The 115 shipping companies and eight environmental groups have called on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to mandate slow steaming to reduce GreenHouse Gas (GHG)emission.

The companies and the groups wrote an open letter to the IMO calling for “mandatory regulation of global ship speeds.”

The letter, which was organised by the European Federation for Transport & Environment, notes that the IMO has agreed on an “Initial GHG Strategy for Shipping that calls for shipping to cut GHG by at least 40% by 20210 and by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

After the global financial crisis in 2008, shipping lines adopted slow steaming and, say the signatories, achieved “dramatic reductions in GHG emissions” that highlight how effective reducing vessel speed can be in helping to achieve GHG reduction targets. “However, recent studies also suggest that ships are speeding up again as global demand recovers. Should this trend continue, any GHG gains from slow steaming over recent years will disappear.”

To respond to the “urgent need” for shipping to address its contribution to climate change, the signatories strongly support the IMO “implementing mandatory regulation of global ship speeds differentiated across ship type and size categories. Our preference would be to set maximum annual average speeds for container ships, and maximum absolute speeds for the remaining ship types, which take account of minimum speed requirements. Such a regulation should be implemented as soon as possible and the obligation for compliance should be placed both on shipowners and operators, including charterers”.

None of the major container lines were signatories to the letter, and the measure is something they would be unlikely to support. Slow steaming was originally implemented as a cost saving measure, but has become an important tool that container lines use to effectively reduce capacity when freight rates fall, and lower costs when fuel prices rise. Vessels also commonly increase speed in peak periods, and to maintain scheduled service times when there are disruptions. Container carriers are unlikely to agree to losing this flexibility.

The reduction of GHG emissions from ships is on the agenda to be discussed at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 74th session, 13-17 May 2019. France’s delegation to the IMO has already proposed that slow steaming be made compulsory.

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