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Business as usual ‘not an option’ on shipping’s path to decarbonisation

Commercial pressure on shipping to decarbonise will increase, says BIMCO’s head of Americas

Shipping must change the way it operates if it is to make progress on decarbonisation, and collaboration across the industry will be critical for it to succeed, conference hears 

THE COMING year will be defining for shipping’s decarbonisation journey and the industry can no longer go about its business as usual, according to shipowner group BIMCO.

“We just entered a year that will be defining for our industry’s level of ambition when it comes to decarbonising,” said BIMCO’s head of Americas Thomas Damsgaard. “In about three months’ time, the MEPC 80 (Marine Environment Protection Committee) is expected to adopt a revised IMO strategy for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for ships.”

Speaking at the Connecticut Maritime Association conference in Stamford, he said 2023 would be a pivotal year for shipping as emission regulations should further tighten and expectations increase for progress on decarbonisation.

Regulation is the “backbone” for shipping and other industries when it comes to decarbonisation, and without it “developments would be slower and common guidelines and goals more blurred”.

To reach the target of net zero by 2050, shipping will face increasing commercial pressure to decarbonise, and the industry will need “all hands on deck”.

“We will need the industry to collaborate in ways that go beyond what we are used to. Business as usual is not an option,” he said. “This year, we will see mounting pressure from investors, financiers, regulators, shippers and consumers. This year, we will need regulation from the IMO that works in practice, not on paper, and we will need collaboration and alignment. Perhaps more than ever.”

The International Maritime Organization’s carbon intensity index, launched this year, is flawed and “leaves plenty of room for improvement”, Mr Damsgaard said. The index seeks to optimise vessel voyages to reduce emissions, but its metrics and implementation have been heavily criticised by the industry.

For one, critics say, shorter voyages and longer waiting times at port are often penalised, although they are typically outside of a shipowner or manager’s control.

Another issue is that shipowners must comply with the regulation, but they often have no control over how efficiently a charterer operates their ships.

Mr Damsgaard called on shipowners and charterers to “fundamentally change” their relationships and deepen their collaboration so the regulation can achieve its goal of helping the industry reduce its carbon emissions.

“The usual way of working together, is not an option. It’s not an easy task,” he said, adding that without collaboration across the entire maritime industry, no progress would be made and goals would be misaligned.

“If we are not heading in the same direction, if we chose old ways over new, go about business as usual and fail to focus on the efficient solutions that can make a difference today, the state of the industry will be one, where we get together here in Stamford 12 months from now, with accounts of slow progress and blurred common goals.” 

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