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IMO Adopts Mandatory Measures to Reduce GHG Emissions from International Shipping

August 05, 2011

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), part of the United Nation’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), recently adopted mandatory measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from international shipping. Approved last month at IMO Headquarters in London, these are the first-ever mandatory global greenhouse emissions plan for any international industry sector.

The new regulations apply to all ships of 400 gross tonnage and above and are expected to enter into force on January 1, 2013.

The standard for new ships, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), is a non-prescriptive performance-based mechanism that leaves the choice of energy efficient technologies on newly-built ships up to the shipbuilder. As long as ships achieve the required energy-efficient metrics, ship designers and builders are at liberty to choose the most cost-effective methods needed to comply with these new regulations.

An additional standard, the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), applies to ships currently in operation. The SEEMP provides a mechanism for operators to improve the energy efficiency of ships (using slow steaming, e.g.).

As you might expect, not everyone is satisfied with the IMO’s new standards. Critics note that developing countries have a six-year waiver, and the rules only apply to new ships replacing old ones.

But Peter Boyd, Chief Operating Office of the Carbon War Room, an NGO aiming to unlock global gigaton-scale greenhouse gas emissions reduction through entrepreneurial means, welcomes this agreement a “historic” move that will save the shipping industry $5 billion in fuel and more than 20 million tons of CO2 per year.

In related news, the European Commission (EC) also recently proposed to lower the sulphur content of shipping fuels. These proposals should reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by up to 90 percent and fine particle emissions by up to 80 percent.

According to the EC, ships will be allowed to use equivalent technologies such as exhaust gas cleaning systems as an alternative to using low sulphur fuels. Other important changes proposed include more unified reporting and verification, and sampling provisions aligned with international standards.

The EC is planning to phase in the new proposals from 2015 to 2020. In the meantime, next year the Commission will develop a series of medium and long-term measures within the framework of a “Sustainable Waterborne Transport Toolbox” to foster sustainable and competitive short sea shipping. While recognizing that the new rules will pose challenges for the sectors concerned, the EC maintains that the use of alternative abatement technologies will significantly reduce compliance costs and stimulate innovation and resource efficiency.

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