IMO approves controversial draft amendments on shipping emissions

IMO approves controversial draft amendments on shipping emissions
The draft amendments are controversial

Environmental groups have lashed out at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) after it approved controversial draft amendments to the MARPOL convention, which they claim will fail to bring about a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the shipping sector.

Campaigners believe that the text violates the initial IMO’s GHG strategy by failing to reduce emissions before 2023, not peaking emissions as soon as possible and not setting ship CO2 emissions on a pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement goals.

John Mags, president of the Clean Shipping Coalition and senior policy advisor at Seas at Risk, said: “As scientists are telling us we have less than ten years to stop our headlong rush to climate catastrophe, the IMO has decided that emissions can keep growing for ten years at least.

“Their complacency is breath-taking. Our thoughts are with the most vulnerable who will pay the highest price for this act of extreme folly.”

Meanwhile, IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim said that the approved amendments were important building blocks without which future discussions on mid and long-term measures will not be possible.

Approved by the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) at a virtual meeting, the draft amendments require ships to combine a technical and an operational approach to reduce carbon intensity.

The technical requirement is based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) while the operational requirement is based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator (CII).

Under the new amendments, ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above to have their required annual operation CII determined, representing the annual reduction factor needed to ensure continuous improvement of the ship’s operational carbon intensity.

The rating would be given on a scale from A to E – indicating a major, superior, minor superior, moderate, minor inferior, or inferior performance level.

Particularly irking green organisations, a ship that is rated D or E for three consecutive years, would only have to submit a corrective action plan, to show how the required index (C or above) would be achieved.

In a joint statement, Transport & Environment, the Clean Shipping Coalition, Pacific Environment and WWF pointed out that this is a potential loophole as non-compliant ships will be able to continue to be underperforming for three years before they must file a plan to make improvements.

The groups noted that ships could easily “game underperformance indefinitely” by ensuring one compliant year every three years.

Additionally, while port authorities and other stakeholders are encouraged to provide incentives to ships rated as A or B, there is no actual enforcement as all clauses that would create consequences for non-compliance have been removed.

Green campaigners also believe that the EEXI, which requires ships to reduce their engine power to make them more efficient, is not stringent enough form many ship types.

According to the environmental groups the draft amendments mean that the proposal, at best, would curb greenhouse gases by only 0.65% to 1.3% by 2030 compared to business as usual pathway without IMO regulation.

Faïg Abbasov, shipping director at Transport & Environment, added: “The IMO has given the go-ahead to a decade of rising greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Europe must now take responsibility and accelerate implementation of the Green Deal.

“The EU should require ships to pay for their pollution in its carbon market and mandate the use of alternative green fuels and energy saving technologies. Across the world nations must take action on maritime emissions where the UN agency has utterly failed.”

The environmental groups have urged nations and regions to take immediate national and regional actions to curb ship emissions.

The groups noted in a statement: “Nations should act swiftly to set carbon equivalent intensity regulations consistent with the Paris Agreement for ships calling at their ports and require ships to report and pay for their pollution where they dock as well as to create low and zero emission priority shipping corridors.”