Speed regulations for carbon crackdown

Could speed reduction regulations be part of IMO's GHG reduction strategy? Could speed reduction regulations be part of IMO's GHG reduction strategy?

Globally enforced speed reductions will be considered by the IMO to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships.

The speed reductions will be among candidate measures to be discussed as the IMO’s intersessional working group on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships meets for a second time next week.

A CE Delft study commissioned by environmental groups Seas at Risk and Transport & Environment (T&E) has found that the industry could cut emissions by 2.51 billion tonnes if the speed of containerships, bulk carriers and tankers is reduced by 30% between 2018 and 2030. The saving represents 12% of shipping’s ‘carbon budget’ – the maximum amount the industry can emit in line with global ambitions to keep global warming within 1.5˚C of pre-industrial levels.

“The industry itself showed clearly that slow steaming works,” said Bill Hemmings of T&E. “It proved effective in weathering the economic crisis, so the IMO should now agree mandatory speed measures to achieve substantial emissions reductions needed to start decarbonisation.”

The study also finds that reducing speed would stimulate jobs and growth in shipbuilding nations, where production would have to grow by over 30% to maintain transport capacity for global trade. The additional costs of slow steaming on global trade - exemplified in the study by exports such as oilcake and beef from Latin America - would be marginal, CE Delft found.

The IMO aims to forge its initial GHG reduction strategy by April 2018, and the intersessional group will consider candidate measures for reducing GHG emissions during its meeting next week. The study noted that speed reductions is one of few measures proposed capable of achieving emission reductions in the short term.

Discussing the form that ship speed reduction could take, the researchers noted that “the speed of ships can be regulated either globally, unilaterally as a condition of entry into a port or as a condition to navigate in coastal waters, or bilaterally between ports in two states”.

Speed regulations should be differentiated to ship type and size so that ships do not have to operate at technically challenging low loads and in order not to disturb competition between ship types. An issue that needs to be studied in more detail is whether it is more effective to regulate average or maximum speeds, the study noted.

Average annual CO2 emission savings (million tonnes), 2018-2030

 

10% speed reduction

20% speed reduction

30% speed reduction

Container fleet

34

62

85

Dry bulk fleet

32

59

83

Crude & product tanker fleet

10

19

25

Total

76

140

193

Source: CE Delft, ‘Regulating speed: a short-term measure to reduce maritime GHG emissions’

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