Wednesday, 25 June 2014


At a maritime conference, Shipping in Changing Climates, in Liverpool, Peter Hinchcliffe OBE, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping(ICS), spoke of the sector’s response to climate change. Pointing to EEDI, SEEMP and slow steaming as key actions he noted that shipping was a function of consumer demand, if the sector was called to invest heavily to reduce emissions (save fuel) then consumers would have to pay.

Professor Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre, showed that our global society is currently on an emissions trajectory which will warm the planet by 4-6degrees whilst the political rhetoric would have us believe we are firmly committed to go no higher than 2degrees. To have any chance of achieving 2degrees - and both IMO and ICS have stated this is the target for shipping - the sector’s emissions must reduce by 30% by 2030. Something doesn’t add up. EEDI, SEEMP and slow steaming see emissions at 2000% above the 2degrees target.

But then maybe 2degrees doesn’t sound so alarming? Until we heard from delegates from the University of South Pacific who told of whole islands being forced to migrate due to sea level rises and the social and cultural breakdown that causes. The island nation is wholly dependent on imported scarce and expensive fossil fuels and without it kids don’t get to school, crops can’t be exported, life deteriorates. This is what climate change looks like.

Other sectors are responding proactively to climate change and as a consequence trade patterns are altering and will continue to do so. Climate induced changes in food production, new low carbon biofuels, changing consumer habits in response to increasing awareness - all these things will impact shipping.

The conference highlighted an array of lower and low carbon technology solutions that the sector is actively developing. LNG was recognised as a ‘transition’ fuel to create a lower carbon option, although issues around methane slip make it as polluting as current fuel oils. Shell’s speaker suggested waste-derived bio-methane could be available within 5 years. Waste heat recovery offered opportunities to save 10-20% emissions. Dr Michael Traut re-established wind as a viable option for modern shipping offering up to 50% fuel savings.

Desirable commercial outcomes were highlighted by Maersk underlining the positive impact on the bottom line from their carbon saving Triple E’s and wider strategies and from Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room which presented a financial solution to enable fuel/cost/carbon saving solutions to be retrofitted to existing ships without incurring additional capital cost.

Professor Anderson urged the conference to “think differently”. In doing so we create a more resilient shipping service.

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