In March 2012, the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee adopted a series of guidelines on topics such as sorting, recycling, and ballast water and on-board sewage management systems.
Changes to Annex VI of MARPOL and the possibility of desulphurised fuels becoming widespread are a sword of Damocles hanging over shipowners, some of whom may be forced out of business.
Switching from HFO (heavy Fuel Oil) to MDO (Marien Diesel Oil) would be folly from an economic standpoint. Engine manufacturers, shipbuilders, shipowners and ports are working hard to come up with new, inventive propulsion systems. Although LNG-fuelled ships remain more on the drawing board than on the open seas, some have already been built. The problem is that these 'green' vessels can cost an extra €20m.
The MF Boknafjord began LNG-powered passenger ferry services in December 2011, while Fjord Line has since ordered two ferries which it expects to enter service in spring 2013.
Norway cuts nitrogen oxide emissions by 12%
"We will be the first company to operate large LNG ferries on international routes. The forthcoming regulations in SECAs (*) mean you are facing a 30-40% rise in costs if you do not switch fuel. It is very expensive to invest in a smoke-cleaning system, and it's not as efficient as LNG," explains Fjord Line chairman and CEO Igvald Fardal, who is looking for a port where his new LNG ferries can refuel.
Northern European and US ports are the benchmark and feature at the heart of the World Port Climate Initiative (WPCI).
In 2008, the Norwegian government launched the €70m NOX fund to finance schemes for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. This financial stimulus has helped Norway to cut these emissions by 12% in four years.
In the Mediterranean region, SNCM is also pondering the future of its fleet. "We are seriously thinking about gas for our new ships," reveals Jacques Vincent, head of quality, hygiene, safety and security at SNCM. Since the start of the 2000s, SNCM has launched a string of initiatives such as slowing ships down and sorting waste into no fewer than 16 categories.
Rotterdam leads the fight against pollution
Several ports are investing in shorepower. Vancouver led the way, and it has been followed by Long Beach, San Diego, Barcelona and, in April 2012, New York in partnership with Princess Cruises and Cunard Line.
In Europe, Gothenburg and Rotterdam are ahead of the game. As long ago as 2009, the Dutch port signed an agreement with Friends of the Earth to reduce its CO2 emissions. The mega ocean liners are also an eyesore, blocking the view of local residents when they stop over. What can you do, besides mooring ships in remote areas?
(*) SECAs: Sulphur Emission Control Areas: Shipowners and engine manufacturers face new challenges in the form of SECAs in the English Channel, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.