For the sake of its decarbonisation goals, the industry must ensure that impending regulations are both consistent and clearly broadcast
For the sake of its decarbonisation goals, the industry must ensure that impending regulations are both consistent and clearly broadcast.
There are awkward precedents to overturn. The mess around IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention has taught shipowners not to rely on implementation dates; Star Bulk Carriers Corp president Hamish Norton claimed last week that the delay made it more difficult to convince shareholders that the sulphur cap would be implemented on time.
IMO learned from that mistake, clearly signalling there would be no movement of the sulphur cap. But other uncertainties remain. An opportunity to clear them up was missed at last week’s meeting of IMO’s Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) sub-committee.
Scrubbers are an accepted method of compliance, but IMO member states at PPR6 acknowledged this only grudgingly, according to Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems director Don Gregory. That followed calls for global harmonisation of washwater standards and an official request from the sub-committee for further studies. Guidelines on scrubbers remained unfinalised despite extensive work in a correspondence group. All for a technology that has been accepted as compliant since 2005.
Anyone observing the UK’s stumble towards Brexit knows that lack of certainty hinders investment. Scrubbers, like ballast water management systems, are a serious investment. To be unsure about the risk of future restrictions with 10 months until the sulphur rule enters force will make potential buyers nervous.
It will also give pause to buyers of future compliance technologies. Between now and 2023, IMO member states will work out the legislative steps that will help shipping achieve its goal of at least halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The industry will need to invest in new, low-carbon or zero-carbon power and propulsion systems – sometimes developing them rather than simply buying them. A hazy regulatory outlook will obscure views on payback for these big investments. The losers will be our environment and shipping’s reputation.