Shipping’s never-ending story of environmental demands

Ballast water and the EEDI are just the beginning. A never-ending list of environmental demands is waiting for the shipowners and suppliers in the years to come. Here, ShippingWatch briefly shows some of the environmental regulations awaiting the industry.

Photo: Hanjin

The list is very long. Both for the shipowners paying for and for the suppliers and service companies developing the future solutions to the environmental demands which are underway. The more places shipping routes target in the world, the more and more advanced ships deployed by the shipowners and the more knowledge the world builds concerning ocean environment and air pollution, the more demands will be posed on ships. Both when they are in ports and at sea and concerning their emission over as well as into the sea. Today and for the rest of the week, ShippingWatch will describe the new environmental demands which are underway and how they will affect the industry.

At the moment, the environmental agenda is dominated by the coming into force of the EEDI demands on 1 January 2013 and the Ballast Water Convention. Thereafter the list contains market-based measures for the emission of greenhouse gasses, the Polar Code, black carbon, biofouling and underwater noise. So Tore Longva, Senior Consultant in the Office for International Regulatory Affairs with Det Norske Veritas, assesses. He thinks that the demands to the shipping industry will surface when the Ballast Water Convention is in place and it will be driven by a dynamic of its own resulting in a new regulatory proposal appearing whenever another is adopted.

“It may well prove to be a bit much for the industry. We do not think that the demands are overwhelming and the trade at sea will always carry on but the regulation will affect especially the small shipping companies”, Tore Longva tells ShippingWatch.

Five new environmental themes

The five themes which will dominate the environmental debate of the future are all of different character. Concerning the emission of greenhouse gasses, the IMO has postponed the decision of how to measure the greenhouse gasses thus postponing taking a decision on market-based measures to the industry for some time. This creates uncertainty. Just as the Polar Code creates uncertainty. The Polar Code defines the rules for the safety of the ships sailing in the Arctic. A set of rules have been underway for a long time but has yet to be adopted. Black carbon is another of the major themes of the future. The question of black carbon concerns both the black carbon emitted today covering the Arctic ice caps and thus increases the melting speed  - and the increased amount of black carbon  emitted by the ships if more ships are navigating the Arctic.

“Black carbon from ships may prove to become an environmental issue in the Arctic but nothing is yet certain. A lot of other sources for black carbon exist in the Arctic. An increase in Arctic ship activity may result in a long-term increase in black carbon emissions and therefore it must be determined if the black carbon from ships will prove a problem in the icy areas”, Clea Henrichsen says about black carbon as an environmental theme. Clea Henrichsen is a trained engineer and takes part in the meetings of the IMO Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) on behalf of the Danish Maritime Authority.

Biofouling is a theme further down the list of shipping’s environmental demands but there is no doubt that it will come up as a demand, Maersk Maritime Technology assesses. In Maersk Maritime Technology, biofouling is considered as an inevitable demand as it is related to ballast water. The same assessment is made by the Danish Shipowners’ Association.

“It is just a matter of time before we will see demands of biofouling. What we are moving about in ballast tanks and making a big effort in fighting may also travel the world as organisms living on the outside of the ships. It is a difficult situation – how must the cleaning be carried out and where?” Per Winther Christensen, Head of the Nautical Office in the Danish Shipowners’ Association says.

On the bottom of the list over the environmental demands which will be posed in the foreseeable future is underwater noise. The noise from ships may disrupt the ocean environment in the waters in which the ships are sailing and thereby change the conditions of the animals and thereby the entire ocean environment. Tore Longva from Det Norske Veritas has no doubt that underwater noise will become an issue and the Danish branch of Lloyd’s Register ODS is already researching how ships may be optimised to make as little noise as possible.

“At the moment, no concrete initiatives on underwater noise are under way, as far as we have heard. However, during the last two years, the issue has become more and more important”, says Per Winther Christensen, continuing:

“It might prove to become a demand in the future. I believe that in the process of looking into energy optimisation, the noise level will also be affected as e.g. better propellers lead to less noise”.

Self-regulatory environmental demands

The IMO MEPC is the forum in which the environmental demands of the future will be adopted and it may take a very long time for the countries of the world to agree on specific rules concerning any given environmental issues. Especially the process surrounding the Ballast Water Technology has been postponed again and again, also as a result of the shipping companies globally being very pessimistic towards possible solutions to the cleaning of ballast water. Per Winther Christensen believes that the demands on the shipowners in the future will be more manageable.

“It is not possible to do 100 things at once. Therefore, the process of new environmental demands is in some way self-regulatory. Ideas are simply not presented if they are not able to receive global support”, Per Winter Christensen says.

According to Clea Henrichsen, the Danish shipping companies will be in a good position to meet any future demands.

“I understand that the shipping companies face a heavy burden when investing billions in new equipment. However, when I am talking to Danish shipping companies, they tend to be relatively positive. Of course they are more positive in times of prosperity whereas they are more negative in recessions but Danish shipping companies typically see the sense in the environmental demands if they know that the rules apply globally”, Clea Henrichsen concludes.

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