Debates on CO2 from shipping in global limbo

The European Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, has acknowledged that a global solution is needed in order to reduce CO2 emissions in the shipping industry. This has sent the initiative to the IMO. Who has responded by postponing the debate. The move disappoints the Danish Shipowners’ Association.

Photo: Hanjin

The threat of implementing a regional regulation in order to reduce the shipping industry’s emissions of CO2 has been postponed for so long that in reality, it no longer features in the European Commission’s calendar. This happened de facto, when the Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard and Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, recently issued a joint statement in which they stated that EU will initially implement a process of monitoring the actual level of CO2 emitted from ships registered in the EU and ships calling EU ports. Or put differently, the first step in reducing the emissions from the fleet is to find out the actual size of the problem. Before the monitoring regime will be adapted and implemented 2013 will almost turn to 2014, European Union sources estimate that carriers are likely to begin to work out and report their CO2 emission no sooner than a year from now. In effect, the EU statement gives the initiative to the IMO which has been requested by both the Danish Shipowners’ Association and the International Chamber of Shipping. These organisations have feared that European regulation would distort competition and that several of the member countries’ shipping companies will find new flag states outside the European Union.

Global regulation

ShippingWatch has spoken to sources close to the decision in the EU who say that the European Commission has acknowledged that CO2 regulation has to be implemented in a global set-up. The Commission has listened to the industry and the spoken or unspoken threats of actual flagging-outs have played a role, not least at a time in which the European economy definitely does not need that important companies choose to place their headquarters in a third country.

“We have to make sure how to work out the emissions of CO2, how it will function and how it will affect the environment and the shipowners’ finances. During the course of events, a lot of people have pointed to the risk of the reaction of the industry and these considerations have played an active role in the decision”, a source tells ShippingWatch.

On one hand, this may look as a retreat by especially Connie Hedegaard. However, it will show if the IMO is capable of handling the responsibility of a global regulation.

Photo: Ilan Brender
Photo: Ilan Brender

The main challenge is to adapt regulation applying to the existing fleet as initiatives for future ships are under way, such as the EEDI, that is the regulation which in the next eight years demands that ships must become increasingly energy efficient. Internationally spoken, Danish shipping companies are ahead of their competitors on environmental issues and are most likely the only companies which have already worked out how much CO2 is emitted by their fleets. That is why the Danish Shipowners’ Association has a big interest in making sure that regulation will become global and that the EU gives the initiative to the IMO. And that is exactly why, the Danish Shipowners’ Association is disappointed that the IMO chose to postpone the debate of a global regulation at the meeting in its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) last week. The Danish delegation had hoped that the meeting would initiate IMO discussions on the existing fleet based on a new American proposal backed by the Danish Shipowners’ Association.


Chief Consultant in the Danish Shipowners’ Association, Marie Bruun Skipper, took part in the meeting in London last week. She says:
“It is just disappointing. Denmark and other major shipping nations and representatives from the shipping industry are completely ready to move on with these important efforts of finding out how to reduce CO2 emissions, not just from newbuildings but also those from the existing ships. The problem is not the IMO but various member countries prolonging the process instead of contributing constructively and forward-looking to these very important decisions which will have to be made sooner or later. We came prepared and had clearly stated that the Danish delegation supports the American proposal which we had been looking forward to discuss at the meeting in the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee. However, the lines are incredibly sharply drawn between developed and developing countries when it comes to environmental issues which also proved to be the case concerning CO2 regulation of the shipping industry”.


The Chairman of the MEPC has now postponed the debate on reductions from the existing fleet to take place at the next meeting which is to take place in May 2013.

Shipowners disappointed by IMO hesitation on ballast water

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