President Macron of France is using shipping and slow steaming to polish his credentials as a politician that cares about greenhouse gases and the environment
The 45th G7 summit in Biarritz, France 24-26 August 2019, was hosted by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron. He appears to be sincerely concerned with efforts to reduce environmental pollution and from the news stories emanating from the G7, one would have thought the meeting was a climate change event. He attacked the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for covertly allowing the acceleration of deforestation of the Amazon rain forest.
President Macron also included shipping in his attack on those polluting the planet, publicly asking shipping companies to avoid using the Northern Sea Route which has opened up through the Arctic due to reduced ice coverage. He reported that France’s largest shipping company, CMA CGM, has agreed to not use this route. Russia has been promoting this route, but Russia is no longer included in the G8, although US president Trump advocates its return in 2020.
President Macron is also endorsing France’s position at IMO – to include slow steaming as a short-term measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He made a public statement on shipping reducing speed as a way of reducing emissions and it is reported that he has appointed a slow-steaming czar – chairman of CMA CGM, Rodolphe Saadé, to lead the lobbying efforts.
On the tanker side of the shipping industry, Intertanko’s former chairman Nikolas Tsakos has already endorsed slow steaming. “Speed control or slow steaming is a way to reduce our environmental footprint and we should look into it,” he said at the 9th Annual Greek Shipping Forum in February 2018, where European Communities’ Shipowners’ associations chairman Panos Laskaridis also called for slow steaming to be considered.
Mr Tsakos expanded on this at the 12th Annual Capital link International Shipping Forum in New York in March 2018, when he said “by reducing our top speed by 20%, we can meet the level.”
For President Macron and other environmentally minded politicians, slow steaming offers a simple off-the-shelf answer that voters can understand. It is also elegant and easy to police – any number of shipping data companies can offer products showing the average speed of a vessel through French waters, SECAs or the EU as a whole.
For me, the main takeaway from the 2019 G7 is that shipping is now on the agenda at the highest global political levels. Forcing mandatory slow steaming on shipping presents politicians with an easy to fix global pollution story – a positive message to send to their constituents at the final press conference of the 2020 meeting.