Maersk Line's environment protection initiative to switch over to cleaner fuel at North America"s west coast ports has reached the milestone of the 1,000th vessel call.
Maersk Line has announced that the company"s environment protection initiative to switch over to cleaner fuel at North America"s west coast ports has reached the milestone of the 1,000th vessel call. As many as 111 vessels have participated since the programme was launched in 2006. The initiative, it is claimed, has reduced the shipping line"s vessel-related air emissions by over 2,400 tonnes when calling at the ports of Los Angeles and Oakland in California and Tacoma in Washington and Vancouver in Canada.
Also, the line has achieved 86 per cent annual reduction in particulate matter, a 95 per cent reduction in sulphur oxides and a 12 per cent in nitrogen oxides.
While the world"s largest container operator"s voluntary environment initiative to improve port air quality is commendable, it should be noted that bunker fuel emissions from international shipping are not covered by the international regulatory framework as set out in the Kyoto Protocol.
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, further modified by the Protocol of 1978 (MARPOL 1973/1978), the main international convention dealing with pollution from ships and covering different types of pollution (oil, chemicals, pollutants in packaged form, sewage, garbage), did not cover air pollution until 1997 when a new Annexe VI on ?Regulations for Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships? was adopted at a special conference.
MARPOL Annexe VI came into force in May 2005 and, till June 2008, was ratified by 51 countries, representing approximately 80 per cent of the world"s gross merchant fleet tonnage.
Interestingly, Annexe VI dealing with sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides emissions and particulate matter does not cover carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming.
The carbon dioxide emissions are subject to separate discussions within International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Updating IMO study
It is important to note that IMO work on greenhouse gas emissions is still at an early stage. At its 56th session, the IMO"s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) confirmed the need to update the IMO study on greenhouse gas emissions.
The study was first completed in 2000. It was felt that the new greenhouse gas study should analyse current global inventories of greenhouse gases and relevant substances emitted from ships engaged in international transportation, methodological aspects and probable future emission scenario, possible future measures to reduce the emissions after undertaking a cost-benefit analysis and the impact of shipping emissions on climate change.
The final report of the updated study, currently being conducted by an international consortium of research institutions in two phases, is expected by March this year for consideration of MEPC at its 59th session.
At its 56th session, according to the Unctad Review of Maritime Transport 2008, MEPC also commissioned a study to evaluate the effects of various fuel options on the environment, human health as well as shipping.
The study, as the Unctad Review points out, was conducted by an ?informal cross-government /industry scientific group of experts? and was funded by donations from member states and non-government organisations.
The report was submitted to MEPC ahead of its 57th session which was held from March 31 to April 4, 2008.
The report estimated total carbon dioxide emissions from shipping at 1.12 billion tonnes in 2007, representing about 4 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion. By 2020, emissions from shipping were projected to rise by 30 per cent to reach 1.47 billion tonnes.
As these estimates are considerably larger than estimates of emissions in the aviation sector, it is felt that the world shipping might be subjected to increasing pressure to address the issue of greenhouse gas emission control.
It might be noted that MEPC has welcomed the IMO Secretary-General"s initiative to expedite work on greenhouse gas emissions and agreed on some principles guiding the formation of a future IMO Regulatory Framework on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships.
However, further considerations of these principles is envisaged in view of reservations expressed by some countries in regard to one particular principle, namely, that the proposed regulatory framework should be binding and equally applicable to all flag states in order to avoid evasion.
Meanwhile, the working group set up by MEPC on greenhouse gas emissions has reviewed in detail several short-term and long-term measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ships outlined in a report by the Intersessional Correspondence Group on GHG (greenhouse gas) Related Issues.
The relevant short-term measures include, among others, the creation of a global levy scheme to address the emission issue, improvement of fuel efficiency, use of wind power, vessel speed reduction and onshore power supply.
The long-term measures aim at proper ship design, use of alternative fuels, a carbon dioxide design index for new ships, emission trading schemes and /or clean development mechanism and inclusion of mandatory carbon dioxide element in port infrastructure charging.