The British Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has criticised shipping companies over their reactions to sulphur emissions limits that come into force in January.
The limits will be in place on both coasts of the USA and Canada as well as in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel, which the RMT are specifically concerned about.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Threats of job and route cuts and fare hikes in the shipping industry make no economic sense when global seatrade is set to double over the next twenty years.”
He continued: “The shipping industry’s approach to the sulphur regulations must be seen by Government for what it is: a cynical attempt to wrest more subsidy from the taxpayer to meet conversion costs.”
RMT national secretary for shipping Steve Todd said: “New limits on the sulphur dioxide content of shipping fuel, required by international law, were announced by the European Union (EU) in 2008 when the Chamber of Shipping welcomed them as “a major move forward” as well as a realistic deadline.”
He continued: “Some operators have taken preparatory steps and we recognise that, but RMT cannot stand by and allow the shipping industry a free run at our members’ jobs on ferries and at ports in the North Sea and English Channel. Leaving these alarmist statements to the eleventh hour is a crude ploy that causes instability in the industry.”
Todd pointed out that in July the EU gave UK ferry companies €30m (US$37m) specifically to help with the costs of converting vessels to low sulphur fuel. The union said that any further subsidies should be conditional on protecting jobs and keeping fares low.
Recently, the European Commission (EC) of the EU has also proposed and informally agreed a proposal for regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from ships.
If formally agreed as expected, this will be in place by January 2018 and apply to ships above 5,000 tonnes arriving and/or departing from EU ports. The system is claimed to be neutral regarding flag and ownership
International shipping association BIMCO believes that the system will create additional red tape for shipping without any positive impact on the environment and may well negatively affect the prospect of an international agreement on carbon emissions in the International Maritime Organisation.
Apart from reporting data on CO2 emissions and distance sailed, the regulation will require ships to report cargo-related information, which BIMCO believes will create problems related to data reliability, confidentiality, reporting responsibilities and obligations.
Lars Robert Pedersen, BIMCO deputy secretary general, said: “We view the EU MRV Regulation as unhelpful in terms of reaching an international agreement on the crucial issue of CO2 monitoring.”
He continued: “We also find it hard to see how the cargo data required from ships will be of value as it relates to past commercial utilisation of ships and serves no purpose for limiting future CO2 emissions or assessing ships’ future performance capabilities.”
The agreement on the regulation still needs formal endorsement from the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. This process will not entail further changes to the specifics of the agreement, which is expected to be finalised by January 2015.
… as shipping industry defends its progress on emissions
As the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) got underway in Lima, Peru, leading shipping representatives defended the sector’s record and vehemently opposed any move to use the industry as a “cash cow”.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) claimed that the shipping industry has and is making substantial progress in cutting emissions under the guidance of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
A statement from the ICS said: “The position of the shipping industry remains that any contribution by shipping to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) must reflect the sector’s modest contribution to total global CO2 emissions. ICS is firmly opposed to any suggestion that the shipping industry should collectively pay tens of billions of dollars each year, stressing that the industry is not a ‘cash cow’.”
According to the Third IMO greenhouse gas study, the global shipping industry produced 2.2% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions during 2012 compared to 2.8% in 2007.
Shipping’s total emissions have fallen by more than 10% over that same period, while the ICS estimates that the industry will have reduced its emissions by over 20% by 2020 compared to 2005 figures.
The statement also pointed out that shipping is the only industrial sector already covered by a binding global agreement to reduce its CO2 emissions, through technical and operational measures agreed – with full industry support – by its global regulator, the IMO.
The ICS, a global trade association for merchant ship-owners asserted that the IMO is developing additional measures to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping.
Additionally, the body said that the UN conference should maintain its support for the IMO as the principal forum for addressing emissions from maritime transport, which cannot be attributed to individual national economies.
The statement continued: “ICS emphasises that any decision, for example, on whether to develop a market based measure for shipping that might be linked to the GCF should be a matter for IMO Member States.”
It added: “IMO will be best placed to develop an approach that can reconcile the UNFCCC principle of ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibility’ – whereby developing countries are treated differently – with the need for all ships, regardless of flag, to be treated in a uniform manner.”
The ICS believes that rules on CO2 should be applied globally to all ships to prevent market distortion and also avoid “carbon leakage” since only 35% of the world’s fleet is registered with nations that are covered by emission reduction commitments under the existing Kyoto Protocol.