At Riviera’s Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Europe, a panel of experts said International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) efforts are the best option for successful decarbonisation regulation and enforcement in shipping
As IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) worked to approve short-term emissions measures aimed at decarbonising the global shipping fleet, experts at Riviera’s virtual conference said business as usual on decarbonisation has no place in the shipping sector.
"The status quo is not acceptable," former IMO emissions policy chief and Green Marine Consultancy owner Dr Edmund Hughes said.
"MEPC will be discussing today the approval of some short-term measures – technical and operational... It’s part of the implementation of the initial strategy [on greenhouse gas emissions]," Dr Hughes said, referring to the framework he worked on during his time at IMO.
"It is an incredibly important framework for action. And this is why, from my point of view… IMO [is] the place where we have to do this work," he said.
DNV GL business director, tankers, Catrine Vestereng said that, based on the forecasting DNV GL had undertaken for its Maritime Outlook 2050, there is no alternative to IMO when it comes to decarbonising shipping.
"If we don’t get the regulatory machine around this, I don’t think anything will happen – this industry is totally dependent around a regulatory regime that is going to tell us how we are going to decarbonise shipping," Ms Vestereng said.
"Some of [the Maritime Outlook 2050] scenarios indicate that – in the case that IMO fails to make the regulations… we [would] continue as normal – and we don’t want that. I don’t believe in that scenario at all," she said.
Intertanko technical director and Oslo station chief Dragos Rauta pointed to the need to avoid delays in further developing and executing the framework and decarbonisation strategy.
"We have regulation, we have targets which are legally binding through the IMO initiative or strategy. So, I’m going back to what we need," Mr Rauta said.
"We need solutions – and to get those solutions, it won’t be narrowed down by ships, it’s global. For that reason, the industry needs to put this effort together. That means not wasting time in debate [and] details. It’s a big leap ahead… and we don’t have time… therefore, let’s concentrate and avoid distractions."
BLUE Communications Insight lead director Adrian Tolson said IMO was one of shipping’s strengths even though the organisation was often a focus of ire from both inside and outside the industry.
"We always think of it as a weakness, as an organisation that moves slowly and in somewhat painful steps," Mr Tolson said.
"But the reality is that we have to have that organisation. You look at other efforts to decarbonise around the globe. They’re simply not there. They don’t have international organisations set up. They don’t have regulations, so they have to rely on individual governments. We have the ability to control a massive fleet of carbon-emitting vessels from one central control, and I think that’s hugely important," he said.
The alternative to an absence of, or even perceived weakness in IMO regulation, Dr Hughes said, would inevitably be regional regulations that would fragment and frustrate the industry.
"If shipping, as an international sector, fails to take action and fails to address the climate challenge properly and appropriately, then there will be national action, there will be regional action and what you’ll see is a fragmentation of the shipping regulation. And that will just create more headaches for the shipping sector," he said.
"The reality is that countries will not wait... The EU will take action if it sees it as necessary. That’s something that increasingly shipping has to understand – especially when it comes to environmental politics – is that there is going to be action taken against the sector if it isn’t seen to be making the right progress."
However, Dr Hughes remained adamant that the global shipping regulatory body would drive progress on decarbonisation. IMO, he maintained, is best placed to deal with both operational issues as well as market-related complexities.
"The fact of the matter is there is only one body that can regulate international shipping – and not only regulate it but also enforce those regulations," he said. "I’m very confident that the shipping sector will rise to the challenge and address the risks and reduce emissions."