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Today is Thursday, February 21, 2019


Not Applicable

Discussions are ongoing at the IMO to determine how shipping should pay for the air pollution attributed to it through emissions released into the air. Two main proposals are under consideration, the European Union (EU) carbon dioxide trading system and the Danish compensation one. However, it remains to be seen whether the outcome, whatever it is, will be accepted at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC) in December this year.

There is an increasing body of political opinion that the industry was given its opportunity in Kyoto, but, has let it slip from its grasp, and now it may well find the matter taken out of its hands.

Shipping may well be recognized as mankind’s most efficient mode of transporting goods, but it will still have to pay a toll, one way or another, for what it generates.

Improvements in terms of lower sulphur content in the fossil fuels used by the majority of present day vessels, will doubtless be beneficial, but let us not forget the knock on cost implications for this enhancement.

There are also continuing developments in the fields of engine design and other maritime technologies all designed at reducing fuel consumption. Not only does this reduce the polluting effect from ships emissions but it should lead to lower fuel bills. Again, costs need to be balanced against the increased capital expense of the technologies and increased maintenance over the life of a vessel.

Presently, the fuel levy cost can likely be expected to be somewhere between $7.50 and $45 per tonne of oil burnt. One may well gasp at the wide range. Whatever figure is arrived at, there can be no doubt that the cost will be passed on to the ultimate user of the services provided to them by maritime commerce. In the main, those living in developed economies will have to consider the cost of throw-away lifestyles and look to reducing their garbage bin sizes. Just how any such levies will be collected and distributed is another murky mess.

Most developing economies are not currently the major polluters yet they are crying out for the lion’s share of the pie to help them adopt eco friendly ways to help save themselves and also the developed world.

For our marine sector at least, what if a sizeable amount of the money generated were to be pooled? It could then be used for faster development and implementation of green ship technologies. Imagine assisting owners by a “cash for clangers” scheme that seems to have worked wonders for the American automotive industry. This would benefit the whole world at one fell swoop and could well encourage moves back to the depleted registers of developed nations.

There can be no doubt that should waterborne transportation costs become prohibitive, there will be more cargo carried by trucks and trains, if these sectors can do a better job of balancing their costs and pollution.

Meanwhile, according to their minister of the environment, a recent Danish study has concluded that within Denmark ships account for 37% of sulphur emissions and not 68% as was previously thought to be the case.

With such news, there may be the glimmering of a green light through the haze.

Jim Nicoll

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