Environmental Protection

IMO Sets its Sights on Maritime Energy-Efficiency Standard

A legislative process has been set in motion at the International Maritime Organization which, if approved, could see obligatory energy-efficiency standards for new ships come into effect in 2013.

Shipping could become the first industry with a global carbon dioxide reduction measure. A legislative process has been set in motion at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which, if approved, could see obligatory energy-efficiency standards for new ships come into effect in 2013. A vote is expected at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in July.

The energy-efficiency rules would come in the form of a carbon dioxide standard for new ships, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). The EEDI, which has been trialed over the last two years, is a standard that sets energy-efficiency targets for ships that will be progressively tightened while leaving designers and builders the freedom to choose the most cost-efficient technology to use. The SEEMP, currently being applied by some ships on only a voluntary basis, is a mechanism for a shipping company or ship to improve the energy-efficiency of ship operations.

A series of moves within the IMO, aimed at positively influencing this month’s climate change summit in Cancún, have turned a slow process into the potential for the first standard promoting energy-efficiency – and thereby reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – to apply to any industry across the world.

Nine countries – Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Liberia, and Norway – requested that the EEDI and SEEMP become mandatory, rather than voluntary last month, after an earlier initiative last September was blocked by China and Saudi Arabia. They have therefore begun a process within the IMO that, if approved in July, will see the changes written into Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution by Ships (MARPOL). This would mean all new ships and shipping companies would have to comply by 2013.

But for this to happen, at least two-thirds of voting members that have ratified IMO's MARPOL convention must approve, and the voting majority would have to represent more than 50 percent of the world's shipping tonnage. Strong developing country opposition is expected, led by China and Saudi Arabia, but it is possible that enough support can be gathered for the move to be approved.

Developing countries have been divided on the issue, with South Korea publicly supporting the EEDI last September. Much of the opposition comes from fears that adoption of a global measure such as the EEDI could set a precedent for developing countries in forums such as the UNFCCC.

Earlier this year, the EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the EU would impose its own regulations if shipping did not speed up the process of tackling its carbon footprint. The IMO action has taken on added significance with the breakdown of talks in Cancún on reducing climate changing emissions from aviation and shipping. The issue will return to technical committees, but with no immediate prospect of any progress.


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