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IMO taking steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions by shipping sector


INTERNATIONAL shipping needs to halve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 400 million gross tonnes by 2050 to align with the goals of the COP21 Climate Change pact that was ratified by world leaders in 2016.

This aggressive requirement spurred the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to roll out a GHG emission roadmap last October, the head of air pollution and energy efficiency at the international regulatory watchdog told The Business Times.

Edmund Hughes noted, however, that the IMO is by no means behind the curve when it comes to drawing up GHG emission regulatory standards.

He said in an exclusive interview with BT on the sidelines of the Future- Ready Shipping Conference 2017 that the IMO has had in place since 2013 energy efficiency regulatory standards that help reduce emissions by international shipping.

These standards came into force 10 years after a resolution was passed by IMO member nations to implement technical, operation and market-based measures for GHG emission control.

In this respect, one visible sign of IMO's efforts bearing fruit is the potentially lower demand for marine fuel, which will translate into lower emissions from shipping operations.

Dr Hughes cited a projection in a study presented by a third-party consultancy, CE Delft, forecasting that marine fuel demand for the year 2020 will reach 320 million tonnes, compared to the 369 million tonnes of marine fuel consumed in 2007.

Findings from the same study cited by Dr Hughes have gone towards supporting the IMO's decision last October to stick to implementing a 0.5 per cent global sulphur cap for marine fuels by 2020.

The aim of the global sulphur cap is to curb emissions of sulphur dioxide, another GHG that is harmful to human health and the larger environment.

The study pointed to sufficient supplies of low-sulphur fuel in support of imposing the cap on international shipping.

Some maritime bodies have contested the veracity of the CE Delft study but Dr Hughes pointed out that the study was based on "conservative" assumptions.

He cited the availability of low-sulphur fuel to meet shipping demand by mid-2019 as one example - this would provide a six-month buffer for ships to refuel with the compliant fuel types ahead of the 2020 global sulphur cap.

Notwithstanding the progress made so far on greener shipping, the IMO is aware that it needs to ramp up efforts on the emission front if its member nations resolve to match the aggressive requirement of halving GHG emitted by the maritime sector.

Dr Hughes said that the IMO is considering bringing forward the implementation of phase three energy efficiency measures by three years to 2022.

This would require ships to cut GHG emissions by 30 per cent by 2022, compared to the 20 per cent cap that has already been implemented for five years until 2020 under the IMO's phase three energy efficiency measures.

Dr Hughes explained that any GHG emission standards set by the IMO would influence fuel choices in the maritime sector and therefore the operations of all ship types.

As the world's top port for bunkering of ship fuelling and refuelling, Singapore has taken a stand to promote the use of potentially greener marine fuels including liquefied natural gas.

The Republic is also home to a vast network of multi-faceted maritime-related businesses - marine insurers, ship financing companies and yards, to name a few.

Mr Hughes pointed out that the breadth of the maritime ecosystem here allows Singapore to play an instrumental role in lending insights to reconcile the different facets of the shipping business, particularly in the context of managing climate change.