Analysis: Lack Of Domestic Shipping Data, A Worry

Last week, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) released its fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas (GHG) study Reduction of GHG Emissions From Ships, alongside other Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) documents on
14 Aug 2020 15:43
Analysis: Lack Of Domestic Shipping Data, A Worry
Container vessels Capitaine Quiros left and Granda Carrier berth at the Suva wharf on August 7, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Last week, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) released its fourth IMO Greenhouse Gas (GHG) study Reduction of GHG Emissions From Ships, alongside other Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) documents on harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water and preliminary data on fuel oil quality/availability as it pertains to air pollution prevention (both in the interest of MARPOL Convention compliance).

GHG emission trends

In regard to GHG emission trends, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) summary of the startling findings.

Meanwhile, the IMO methane emissions have grown across the sector by 150 per cent from 2012-2018, a non-trivial contributor to the 10 per cent overall increase during the same period.

Methane, by weight, has 25 times the global warming potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide over a 100 year period.

As only carbon dioxide emissions are currently limited under IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) regulations, this alarming trend illustrates both the need for amendments and updates to the global regulations, as well as a clear understanding by both national and industry bodies that Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) are not appropriate “transition” fuels.

Coupled with a 12 per cent increase in black carbon emissions – largely attributable to heavy fuel oil – the immediate need for massive research and development efforts to provide a pathway for alternative low/zero-emission fuels to be deployed on a global scale cannot be overstated.

When these emission increases are considered alongside the diminishing returns on fuel efficiency noted across the maritime transport sector since 2015, with only 1-2 per cent improvements gained per annum, it becomes clear the rapid adoption of technologies already available to increase operational efficiency should be urgently promoted through investments in both newly built and retrofitted vessels.

Why waste money and blow through more of our carbon budget than necessary while measures are put in place to broaden and mainstream alternative fuel production and distribution across the global supply chain?

We know measures can be taken now to accrue significant savings for Pacific Island Countries in the short/mid-term while rallying around a unified message for the Shipping High Ambition Coalition (SHAC) in the IMO.

This is the rationale taken by MCST in its work on behalf of the Government of the Marshall Islands with SHAC members around the region – including Fiji – in partnership with a number of diplomatically aligned efforts by European nations. With the COP-23 presidency, Fiji was able to broaden awareness of the national-level responsibilities to reduce emissions.

However, because of the enormity of the undertaking (and the associated logistical requirements), the meeting was hosted in Bonn, Germany.

The resources required to make a compelling case for urgent diplomatic action on our global climate response are substantial – and a physical presence for proceedings at the IMO is annual, has customarily taken place in London – a high-cost locale on the far side of the planet from Oceania.

Now, Glasgow’s COP-26 has been postponed until November, 2021, due to COVID-19 issues.

It was decided to defer on taking action for a year while nations try to respond to pandemic instead of being taken online from locations globally for proceedings on the record, which would allow reduction in emissions and more rapid response.

Meanwhile, the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) efforts to implement CORSIA – the new global market-based measure for quantifying, validating, and valuing carbon emission offsets from international air travel – was struggling to find adequate agreed implementation and structural support prior to the sudden constriction of the aviation market.

As neither COP26 nor ICAO have moved to digital, decentralised convening of these dialogues, there is an opportunity for Fiji, other Pacific Island Countries, and broader SHAC members to convene these IMO dialogues remotely going forward, for the sake of both cost and emissions savings.

Maritime shipping has not seen the same reduction in service, volume, or frequency that the aviation sector has.

Crew change issues abound over health and labour considerations. World Food Programme’s Pacific Logistics Cluster weekly bulletin notes Fiji’s cargo volume has dropped 11-15 per cent and services are continuing in accordance with regional quarantine requirements.

As Professor Tristan Smith, MCST Partner at UCL Energy Institute recently summarised regarding the fourth IMO GHG Study, approximately 30 per cent of the steadily arising emissions can be attributed to domestic operations, with around 70 per cent falling under the responsibility of IMO regulations.

Using hourly Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), voyage-based emissions can be estimated for international shipping voyages, but domestic shipping data is lacking. Professor Smith said regarding data on our trajectory to halve emissions globally by 20 per cent “…none of that is at all reassuring, respective of trying to do our best to reach a 1.5 degree target. It’s a trend that is going completely in the wrong direction.”

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