Monday, February 03, 2020


Ships move approximately 80% of the world’s goods. When compared to other forms of transportation, marine shipping is the most energy-efficient way to move large volumes of cargo.'[Source: Clear Seas]
'If you leave out passenger ships and tugboats, there are about 51,000 commercial ships on the ocean, mostly cargo vessels transporting everything from fish fingers and fridges to cars and crude oil. We all depend on this industry. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) about 80 per cent of the goods we trade go by sea. The dominance is because ships move goods around cheaply, if slowly. Ships also emit less carbon dioxide than other modes of transport. 
[Source: Peril On The Sea by Joshua Howgego New Scientist 27 Jan 2018]

The world’s key ports have committed themselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) while continuing their role as transportation and economic centres. This commitment is called the World Ports Sustainability Program (WPSP). The ports do this through influencing the sustainability of supply chains, taking into account local circumstances and varying port management structures. The ports actively seek the cooperation of ships in support of measures to reduce emissions to air from ships.


In April 2018, delegates at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN agency that regulates international shipping, agreed on a target of reducing the sector's emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG] by at least 50 per cent by 2050 and pursuing efforts to phase them out entirely..'  
 'In fact, [in March 2018] a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that shipping emissions could be cut 95 per cent by 2035 using existing tech. How? 
The first thing is to change the way ships operate.
Reducing ship speeds could save up to two-thirds on fuel. While this sounds easy, it would reduce owners' annual profits, so they won't do it voluntarily. 
We could also boost fuel efficiency, by building bigger but more slender ships from lighter materials and equipping them with drag-reducing tech already fitted to some vessels. Such measures could reduce fuel use by more than a third. 
The last, and most important, change is to replace the heavy fuel oil used by most ships. Even switching to liquefied natural gas would provide big savings. Better yet would be to completely replace fossil fuels with hydrogen, ammonia, electricity or even nuclear power. Ships could also harness solar and wind power. 
The challenge is to make all this happen, and fast. 
Cutting shipping emissions to near zero will require eventually replacing most of the ships now in service. But ships are expensive to build and remain in use for a long time. The average age of the commercial fleet is 25 years. 
This is one of the reasons why many wanted the IMO to set a much more ambitious target now. If shipping companies don't start designing and building greener ships soon, we will run out of time. And the IMO is not exactly in a rush. It is not due to come up with a final plan for actually achieving the 50 per cent target until 2023. 
The IMO has no direct way to enforce this. The countries ships sail between - the port states -have some powers to enforce what happens in their waters. 
The rules in international waters are meant to be enforced by the countries where ships are registered - the flag states. Most ships are now registered to flag states such as Panama and Liberia rather than in the countries where they operate. This is done to avoid tougher regulations and higher costs elsewhere, so it is far from clear whether the major flag states will be willing and able to enforce emissions targets - especially as some have been fighting to prevent them.
 Ship owners, meanwhile, are not going to want to cut emissions if it costs them money.   A big part of the problem here is that the heavy fuel oil is not taxed, while some alternative energy sources, like electricity, are. So the world urgently needs to impose some form of carbon pricing on shipping - as it does on all fossil fuels.  
 [Source: 'It's time to sail the deep green sea' by Michael Le Page. New Scientist/ 21 April 2018]

 International Maritime Organization (IMO

  • IMO has been working to reduce harmful impacts of shipping on the environment since the 1960s
  • Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Convention) was adopted in 1997, to address air pollution from shipping. 
  • 'These regulations ... seek to control airborne emissions from ships (sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ozone depleting substances (ODS), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and shipboard incineration) and their contribution to local and global air pollution, human health issues and environmental problems
  • Annex VI entered into force on 19 May 2005. It was revised, significantly strengthened and then adopted in October 2008. These regulations entered into force on 1 July 2010.
  •  'phasing in a progressive reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) from ships and further reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from marine engines.' 
 • The regulations to reduce sulphur oxide emissions introduced a global limit for sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, with tighter restrictions in designated emission control areas. 
  • Since 2010, further amendments to Annex VI were adopted, including  to Emission Control Areas (ECAS)
There are currently four Emission Control Areas (ECAS) where requirements are more stringent than the global limits. They are the Baltic Sea area (SOx only); North Sea area (SOx only); North American area (SOx, NOx and PM); and United States Caribbean Sea area  (SOx, NOx and PM). 
  •  Limits for the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil: In the ECAS areas, the sulphur cap is 0.10% m/m (mass/mass).The  global sulphur cap was 3.5% but has been cut to 0.50% from 1 January 2020 
  • IMO claims that: 'This will significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits for the world, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.'
  • How can ships meet lower sulphur emission standards? Ships can meet the requirement by using low-sulphur compliant fuel oil. An increasing number of ships are also using gas as a fuel as, when ignited, it leads to negligible sulphur oxide emissions. Another alternative fuel is methanol which is being used on some short sea services.                                                                                                                                    *

IMO 2020 – Lower Sulphur Means Higher Freight Rates

According to the business intelligence company CRU the IMO 2020 MARPOL Annex VI policy is likely to raise freight rates by around 10-20%.

According to IMO: 'Ships may also meet the SOx emission requirements by using exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers”, which “clean” the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. CRU says that uptake of scrubber systems has been higher than anticipated and their growth will accelerate further.

Capesize ships are the largest dry cargo ships. They are too large to transit the Suez Canal (Suezmax limits) or Panama Canal and so have to pass either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn to traverse between oceans.

Panamax and New Panamax ships are travelling through the Panama Canal. They strictly follow the size regulations set by the Panama Canal Authority, as the entry and exit points of the Canal are narrow.

Handysize are small-sized ships with a capacity ranging between 15,000 and 35,000 Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT). These vessels are ideal for small as well as large ports, and so make up the majority of ocean cargo vessels in the world. They are mainly used in transporting finished petroleum products and for bulk cargo.
  • CRU estimates that 20-25% of the larger Capesize vessels will have scrubbers fitted by end 2020. For the mid-size Panamax vessels, the uptake is lower at 5%. The smaller Handymax vessels are unlikely to install scrubbers at all. 
  •  Considering the share of each type of vessel we calculate that in 2020, 10%-15% of total ocean-going freight capacity will employ scrubbers, rising to ~20% by 2025. 
  • More Capesize capacity will be fitted with scrubbers because the vessel size and the typical length of voyage mean a larger volume of fuel is burned making the capital investment and the pay-off period much more attractive. In addition, Capesize vessels generally travel on fixed routes between very large ports (e.g. Brazil or Australia to China), where the likelihood of the high sulphur fuel oil (IFO180) being available is greater than that of a small port.
  • Of the vessels fitted and due to be fitted with scrubbers, most have opted for the open loop option (where the exhaust gases are washed with sea water and dischargd into the sea). 
  • This comes as a surprise as closed-loop scrubbers initially were considered to be more environmentally friendly as the ‘waste’ was [held on board] and disposed of after treatment at ports. 
  • However, since some studies have concluded that there is no notable negative environmental impact to using open loop vessels, many companies fitting scrubbers are willing to take the risk. Open loop scrubbers cut down on installation and running costs, along with the logistics of carrying and disposing of the waste. 
  • There are some regions (Singapore and Fujairah) where an open loop scrubber is not allowed to operate, but until we see such controls at major ports such as Rotterdam, Qingdao and Newcastle the movement of bulk vessels will be largely unaffected.
  • Fuel blending will be key in achieving compliance with the IMO's regulations
  •  Bunker fuel is a residual fuel of the oil refining process, it is cheap, has high sulphur content and has been the standard fuel used by the shipping industry.  By way of explanation: The fuel blending involves adding a proportion of Biofuels or other fuels to achieve a lower proportion of sulphur in the mix. The physical blending on board of bulk liquid products during a sea voyage to create new products is prohibited by the IMO.   


  • Commercial ships emit several types of air pollution as by-products in the form of smoke. Ship-source pollutants most closely linked to climate change and public health impacts include carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter. (PM) 
  • On a global scale, the marine shipping industry’s share of total emissions from human sources is: CO2 (2.2% per year), NOx (15% per year), SOx (13% per year) 
  •  CO2 is an important GHG. When it is absorbed by seawater, the water becomes more acidic and this  has adverse effects on marine life and ecosystems. NOx causes acid rain and medical problems in humans. SOx has similar effects. 
  • In addition, the smoke from ships also contains a collection of solid and liquid particles formed during fuel combustion.This “black carbon” is the second largest contributor to climate change after CO2. The particles absorb solar energy in the air before falling to earth. High concentrations of black carbon darken the ice and snow surfaces and significantly reduce the amount of solar energy reflected back into space - known as the albedo effect - which accelerates melting. 

LNG As Marine Fuel Revealed To Be Worse Than Business As Usual For Climate – Report By MI News Network | In: Shipping News | January 28, 2020

  • A new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has found that the most popular Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) ship engine, particularly for cruise ships, emits between 70% and 82% more life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the short-term compared to clean distillate fuels. 
  • The shocking new report, “The climate implications of using LNG as a marine fuel”, comes as the shipping sector grapples with its enormous climate footprint, and more ship operators are turning to LNG as a purported climate solution.
  • The ICCT report examines the lifecycle GHG emissions from marine fuels, including a previously poorly understood source of climate emissions from LNG-powered ships — the unintentional releases of the climate super-pollutant methane from ship engines, known as methane slip.

  • The authors found that using LNG could actually worsen the shipping industry’s climate impacts compared to marine gas oil (MGO) when considering the amount of heat these emissions will trap over a 20-year period. 
  •  “This groundbreaking new analysis is a damning climate indictment of LNG as marine fuel. For a sector that is already one of the largest contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions, this report reveals that switching ships to LNG is worse than doing nothing. This should serve as an alarming wake-up call for the International Maritime Organization, which must act now to ensure it includes all greenhouse gas emissions in its emissions reduction strategy,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner at
  • LNG is being hailed as a climate solution by many in the shipping industry — a sector that is responsible for more global GHG emissions than major climate polluting nations, including Germany, Iran, South Korea, and Canada. If left unchecked in a business-as-usual scenario, international shipping GHG emissions could rise from its current 3% share of emissions to a staggering 17% of global GHG emissions by 2050. If ships were to continue to uptake LNG as a marine fuel, emissions could be even worse. 
  • “The report shows the need for adopting policies that can reduce the broader GHG emissions of shipping instead of CO2 only, said Dr. Elizabeth Lindstad, Chief Scientist at SINTEF Ocean, Maritime Transport.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that global GHG emissions must be nearly halved from 2017 levels by 2030 to avert the worst impacts of climate change, and methane emissions from all sources must be cut by at least 35% from 2010 levels by 2050.
  • Given this short timeframe to drastically reduce climate-disrupting pollution, the report authors evaluated the climate impacts of marine fuels using 20-year and 100-year global warming potentials. Methane emissions are particularly problematic because methane traps 86 times more heat than the same amount of carbon over a 20-year period. 
  • Of the 756 LNG ships currently in use or on order, the most popular engine type, by far, is also the worst offender with the highest rate of methane slip. This engine is especially popular with cruise ships, and the cruise industry promotes these LNG ships as having significant climate benefits. 
  • As recently as December, the largest cruise operator in the world, Carnival Corporation, touted its LNG program as an example of its climate leadership in an announcement about joining the “Getting to Zero Coaliton.” This coalition aims to have zero-emission vessels in operation by 2030. 
  • “Carnival Corporation’s program to increase the number of LNG ships in its global fleet is like jumping out of the oil pot and into the climate-fueled fire. While most of Carnival’s global fleet still burns one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on earth — heavy fuel oil — LNG is far from a solution to its massive climate pollution problem. We urge Carnival to stop fueling its ships with oil refinery waste and end its investments in climate-disrupting LNG ships. If Carnival wants to be an environmental leader, it must switch to the cleanest fuel available — marine gas oil — and put its investment dollars toward truly zero-emissions technologies,” said Ulrich.
  • The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Pollution Prevention and Response Subcommittee meets February 17-21 in London, in what is being hailed by the international community as an Arctic Summit. The pollution subcommittee will be asked to send strong recommendations to its parent committee, the Marine Environment Protection Committee, on urgent control measures for black carbon in the Arctic and other marine ecosystems.
  • Also on its agenda are banning the use.. of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic, and closing a loophole that allows for the continued use of heavy fuel oil under more stringent fuel sulfur standards if ships install “emissions-cheat” systems called scrubbers.
  • The Marine Environment Protection Committee meets March 30-April 3 in London, where, after two years of stalling and delays, its top priority will be its Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy and agreeing to short-term measures to begin reducing emissions.


Source: Cruise ships are damaging the world’s seas'
John Gapper/ Financial Times 5th June 2019

This has not been a happy week for cruise operators. On Sunday morning, a large cruise ship collided with a dock in Venice, injuring four people.  On Monday, a judge in Miami approved a $20m settlement with Carnival Corporation, the world's biggest cruise operator, for repeatedly polluting oceans. 

"If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell," Judge Patricia Seitz observed sharply to Arnold Donald, chief executive of Carnival, in Miami. Carnival pleaded guilty to having dumped waste and oily water into the sea, despite a previous criminal conviction for the same offence. 

Cruise operators need to clean up their act. They face protests at the most popular spots such as Venice, Dubrovnik and the Norwegian fjords for sailing behemoths there — the Opera looks big but is only half the size of MSC Cruises' latest vessels, which can take 5,000 passengers. 
Now they are under scrutiny for their emissions and the waste they generate. 

It is unfair in some ways. Cruising is a growing form of tourism but still tiny compared with the industry as a whole: 28m people took cruises last year out of about 1.4bn tourist arrivals in foreign countries. It suffers the curse of the visible — cruise ships, with what the Miami court settlement monitor called "all the myriad needs of a small free-floating city", are hard to ignore. 

"The more people cruise the world, the more the world becomes a better place," Carnival claims in its 2017 sustainability report. There is something to that. McKinsey & Co estimates that travel and tourism generated $7.9tn, or 10 per cent of global gross domestic product, in 2017, and more than 1,000 crew can be employed on a cruise ship. But it is not unalloyed gain.

One problem is emissions. Cruise ships use heavy oil for fuel, like other commercial ships, and the shipping industry is estimated to create 13 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions, causing 400,000 cases of premature death globally a year. There are sulphur control areas along coasts, yet one Carnival ship was found to have burnt oil inside Iceland's protection zone. 

Operators including Carnival use filters to curb emissions and some are turning to liquefied natural gas as a fuel — Carnival's AIDAnova, a liner powered by LNG that can carry 6,600 passengers, went into service last year. But the sector as a whole remains a polluter. 

A second problem is waste disposal. Carnival was originally fined $40m in 2017 after a whistleblower on a ship operated by Princess Cruise Lines, one of its subsidiaries, disclosed that its crew had secretly dumped oil-contaminated bilge water into the sea through a "magic pipe" since 2005. 

Cruise ships also collect a lot of "grey water" from showers and "black water" sewage. 
No cruise ship is allowed to dump untreated waste into the sea, even beyond the 12-mile coastal zone imposed by maritime law, and modern ships have extensive treatment facilities. 
The Cruise Lines International Association estimates that ships recycle 60 per cent more waste per person than on land, but the Carnival case shows that breaches are common. 

Compared with tourism as a whole, the cruise industry is a limited cause of ecological concern. But it is growing beyond the baby-boomer market in Germany and the UK, where the average passenger is 57. Virgin is launching a cruise ship next year aimed at a younger crowd, promising a "sailor experience that balances the duality of enjoying the earth and caring for it".

This growth, and the fact that cruise ships are contained environments that could become leaders in sustainable tourism, make it vital to avoid repetitions of the Venice crash and the Carnival case. Taking them out of the Giudecca Canal, where they overshadow Venice, is a start, but other ports need to ask themselves how much they need sail-by visits from the giants. Most of the environmental responsibility lies with the operators themselves, which have raised their standards but need to do more. It is tempting to behave badly at sea, when no one is watching, but it is ugly. 

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