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‘We need to sail greener, not slower, to cut vessel emissions’

container shipping in tianjin

Policy director of the UK Chamber of Shipping Anna Ziou has slammed French proposals to impose speed limits as a way to cut shipping emissions,

She claims it would give a “false impression” of the industry taking action. 

Ms Ziou’s objection follows an outcry from container lines following the French IMO delegation’s proposals becoming public last month. 

“To achieve a 50% cut in emissions, the shipping industry needs continued investment in green technologies that will allow ships to conduct their business through a range of low-carbon fuels, such as battery power, hydrogen fuel cells or even wind power,” said Ms Ziou. 

“Shipowners have already limited speeds considerably in the past decade and while these proposals are well-intentioned, slow-steaming as a low-carbon [plan] is just not good enough. 

“It will give a false impression that the industry is taking action, when in reality it will deliver no meaningful reduction in emissions, and the scale of ambition required for the industry to meet the 50% target should not be underestimated.” 

Ms Ziou noted that if selected, the plan could penalise companies developing and installing low-carbon technologies and could discourage “meaningful” attempts at cutting emissions. 

At best, she claimed, speed limits would delay any form of transition to low-carbon fuels and in so doing would store up greater costs for the industry. 

She added: “Speed reduction could result in supply chains using alternative modes of transport, such as road haulage, which would increase overall emissions. 

“In addition, ships may call at certain ports that are tidally constrained where a delay of just one hour could result in a knock-on delay of 12 hours to the vessel as it awaits the next tide, unnecessarily creating further emissions during the additional waiting time.” 

Since The Loadstar first reported the proposals, a division has become clear, with sources suggesting Maersk had objected to them when submitted to the IMO in March. And a spokesperson for Hapag-Lloyd told The Loadstar additional speed reductions “would not be a good solution”, noting carriers had voluntarily reduced speed “a few years ago” leading to significant reductions in fuel burn, and slowing the speed of the entire supply chain. 

“We invested many millions to technologically optimise ships accordingly,” added the spokesperson. “We believe additional speed reductions are not in the interests of our customers and would have a significant effect on efficiency and supply chain speed. And we would need to invest again into optimising ships for lower speed.” 

Data seen by The Loadstar shows that container carriers made marked improvements in cutting speed since 2008. However, more recent data suggests ships above 12,000 teu appear to have started speeding up in 2014, and one source claimed ships of all sizes across the global fleet had increased speed in the past year. 

But Hapag-Lloyd’s spokesperson said: “I would like to see the data; the fact is ships have slowed down.” 

Despite the objections, it seems there is mounting support for the introduction of speed limits after chief executives from more than 100 shipping companies described climate change as “possibly the greatest challenge of our time” in a recent open letter to IMO member states. 

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