A speed limit for vessels raises many issues which must be examined thoroughly, according to two Nordic shipowners' associations.
The discussion of a potential speed limit to reduce ships' greenhouse gas emissions was incited by comments from the new chairman of the European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA).
In an interview with ShippingWatch, the new Chairman, Panos Laskaridis, said that a speed limit should be considered as one of several solutions which could reduce pollution from shipping immediately.
But both Danish Shipping and the Norwegian Shipowners' Association say that the idea has many pitfalls.
Potential speed reductions must take place in a smart way which would prompt the inefficient parts of the global fleet to deliver"
"Of course, there is reduction potential in reducing speed, and this could thus be a tool for individual carriers in their work on contributing to overall reduction targets. However, I don't think that a mandatory speed limit is the right approach as there are several concrete challenges," says Maria Skipper Schwenn, Executive Director of Danish Shipping, to ShippingWatch.
"First and foremost, you risk punishing the carriers which have invested in energy efficient vessels as the old inefficient ships would be just as attractive if speeds are lowered. It would furthermore remove the incentive for innovation. Finally, the need for more ships would grow as seaborne transports grow. A potential speed limit should thus be examined very thoroughly and viewed in light of the sailing patterns in various segments," she says.
The Norwegian Shipowners' Association also recognizes that greenhouse gas emissions would decline if ships sailed slower. This could be one of several solutions along with using new energy sources and better engine technology, says the CEO of the association, Harald Solberg.
However, he believes a speed limit could cause problems for both shipowners and their customers.
"There are many challenges related to speed limits and it would require that the industry can come to a global agreement. If not, unequal competition conditions will arise. It will require a different kind of planning in the chain of logistics because it will take longer before the goods arrive. And then it depends on whether the customers of shipping accept lower speeds. Finally, there would be operational factors such as storms and other events which would make it demanding to implement this," Solberg tells ShippingWatch.
"In addition, a ship is designed and optimized for a certain speed, and if you reduce the speed on a ship which is designed for 15 knots and sail it as 10 knots then the effect of a speed limit would not necessarily be optimal," he adds.
The shipping industry is currently working on landing a preliminary climate agreement to ensure that shipping pollutes less and contributes to reaching the temperature targets in the Paris Agreement.
These discussions are taking place in the UN's International Maritime Organization (IMO) which will meet next in April for the Marine Environment Protection Committee's MEPC-72. When this meeting is over, it should result in a list of potential initiatives in the short, medium and long terms.
"Speed reductions are part of the IMO discussions and one of the proposals which is in play as a method in the short term. Danish Shipping is working for the IMO to deliver a solid CO2 reduction strategy this year, which would also contain efforts to reduce CO2 in the short term. Potential speed reductions must take place in a smart way which would prompt the inefficient parts of the global fleet to deliver. This means not penalizing first movers and hindering innovation. For this reason, a mandatory speed limit is not a solution," says Skipper Schwenn of Danish Shipping.
English Edit: Gretchen Deverell Pedersen