Shipping is unquestionably the most environmentally friendly transport mode and is constantly developing new technologies to reduce its overall environmental footprint. This is a very important issue for French ship owners, because, in addition to the challenge such initiatives have on the environment, they present very real economic challenges.
The price of fuel looms large and ship owners are rolling out ‘slow steaming’ for freight. Scheduled passenger and cruise line operators are modifying their speed, but to a lesser extent, obliged to comply with stopover timetables or lose their competitive advantage
At present, ship owners must adapt to tighter regulations. In only 3 years, the shipping industry has already made tremendous progress.
Since 2010, ships docked in a port must not emit more than 0.1% of sulphur, which has already had a positive impact on pollution in ports.
In favour of regulatory flexibility
If, for a long time, ship owners have been conducting a proactive policy to protect the environment, they are now worried about the consequences of the timing of anti-pollution standards, and are calling for an adjustment of the regulation that requires, by 2015, further reductions of sulphur emissions in SECA areas (Sulphur emission control areas).
Between 2010 and 2012, ship owners have already reduced the sulphur emission rates of vessels in these SECA areas from 1.5% to 1%. In 2015, regulations will impose a rate of 0.1%. This schedule will have serious implications for the maritime economy causing an increase in operating costs of approximately 20%. It seems unlikely that customers will be asked to absorb this extra cost... The risk is the closure of shipping lines deemed unprofitable and a modal shift towards road transport, which is the opposite of what the government wants, and in defiance of all environmental logic!
This is why Armateurs de France wants the International Maritime Organization to relax, for a limited time, its requirements for the existing Ro-Ro and passenger ships that would be the most negatively impacted.
Protecting the air is not the only strand of action on board ships. Many other actions exist. For example, we could mention the introduction of selective sorting on ships, which has been going on for many years.
We should also mention the involvement of Mediterranean ship owners in the REPCET programme, based on real-time tracking of cetaceans, to avoid collisions with ships operating within the Pelagos marine sanctuary between France, Italy and Monaco.
If protecting the environment has been at the heart of the practical concerns of ship owners for many years, it now appears to be a source of technical challenges, and therefore, at least over the longer term, progress for sea transport.