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Ocean Transport: Environmental Uncertainty
Kinghood International Logistics Inc | Updated: Aug 09, 2017

 The global maritime industry seems to say all the right things when it comes to lowering emissions, but there are still a lot of gaps to fill to make these goals a reality.
   By 2050, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from international shipping could grow by between 50 percent and 250 percent, depending on future economic growth and energy developments, according to a 2014 study from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on greenhouse gasses.
   However, the World Shipping Council (WSC) says international maritime shipping is the world’s most carbon-efficient mode of transportation, accounting for just 2.7 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
   According to the association, the majority of new ships built since 2013 by WSC member carriers, which operate approximately 90 percent of global containership capacity, are around 30-40 percent more carbon efficient than those they replaced.
   But a CE Delft study conducted this year found that although the average design efficiency of new ships has improved in recent years, those improvements seem to have stalled out in 2016. In particular, the design efficiency of new bulk carriers, tankers and gas carriers last year was worse than in 2015, while the design efficiency of containerships and general cargo carriers remained relatively unchanged.
   Looking ahead, the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee is set to lower the global cap on the amount of sulfur in marine fuel from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent in 2020 despite pushback from industry stakeholders.
   In an effort to find ways to lower carbon emissions, a group of 13 shipowners and operators, classification societies, engine suppliers, technology firms, and oil companies in late June joined forces with the IMO to form the Global Industry Alliance (GIA), part of the IMO’s GloMEEP Project, which is aimed at supporting developing countries in the implementation of energy efficiency measures for shipping.
   Geneva, Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC), one of the founding GIA members and the second largest container carrier worldwide, in 2016 reduced its emissions by 6.6 percent per cargo-ton-mile, partly as a result of a $250 million investment in vessel retrofitting, according to the company.
   Meanwhile, over 170 countries met at the IMO in London in July to discuss ways to decarbonize shipping, with the next round of climate talks scheduled for October. The IMO has said it wants to deliver an interim emissions strategy for shipping by 2018 and a comprehensive plan by 2023.
   The July meeting resulted in a seven-step plan, forming the basis of the IMO’s first substantial attempt to address climate change, 20 years after first being requested to do so under the Kyoto Protocol, according to marine protection group Seas At Risk.
   One proposal that gained broad support but failed to reach a consensus called for the adoption of emissions targets in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, a multilateral partnership between about 200 countries aimed at addressing climate improvement through voluntary measures, and decarbonize by the second half of the century.
   China and India also voiced strong support for alternative carbon fuels, while a coalition of Pacific and European nations argued in favor of in-sector action. Other countries like Brazil and Chile, however, voiced concerns about the potential negative impacts of reduction measures.
   “Some important progress has been made, but if the process is to produce a fit-for-purpose initial strategy by 2018, then it needs to shift up a gear and start focusing on the core issue of how to cut ship emissions deeply in the short term,” said John Maggs, senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk.

 And despite all these public efforts to cut emissions, it was reported in June that Maersk Oil, Denmark’s largest oil company and a fellow subsidiary of Maersk Line parent A.P. Moller-Maersk, has found itself in hot water over pollution in the North Sea.
   Maersk Oil allegedly emitted 42 metric tons of a chemical known as “scavtreat” into the North Sea. The chemical, used primarily to remove hydrogen sulfide from oil, contains a specific component that is substantially more environmentally harmful than the company told authorities.
   Ole Hansen, CEO of Maersk Oil Denmark, said the company made sure scavtreat use was phased out by July 1 of this year, but the accusations send a somewhat hypocritical message from the owner of the world’s largest container carrier.
   Also in June, President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Although the Trump administration argued the decision will ultimately benefit American businesses and workers, EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete called the U.S. withdrawal “a sad day for the global community, as a key partner turns its back on the fight against climate change.”
   And with the U.S. out of the accord, some have questioned whether other countries could also follow suit.
   On an industry level, uncertainty abounds when it comes to reducing emissions. Most agree that climate change is real, and that humans are the primary cause, but exactly what the maritime shipping sector is going to do about that—and whether it can actually meet stated goals—still remains to be seen.

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