As we know, Maritime transport is the most cost-effective way to transport goods and represents more than 90% of the world’s trade according to the United Nations.
In some numbers it represents:
– more than 10 billion tons of goods and merchandise per year,
– more than 90,000 ships,
– more than 800 million tonnes of CO2 per year, i.e. 3 to 4% of global warming.
Journalist Rose George, author of the book “90% of Everything “, says that while humans have been moving goods on water for 4,000 years, container ships have fuelled globalization in its modern form.
Transporting 90% of the world’s trade is a great responsibility and as with great responsibility comes great pressure. As we welcome 2020, we see the beginning of much stricter regulations enforced in the shipping industry globally. More than 150 years after the opening of the Suez Canal, the environment is at the heart of the concerns and objectives of the shipping industry.
“Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet ” is the World Maritime theme for 2020. This is in line with the new regulation “IMO Sulphur 2020” of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to achieve the objectives of its 174 member states. The IMO is the United Nations agency responsible for ensuring the safety and security of maritime transport and preventing pollution of the seas from ships.
Effective from the 1st January 2020 the maximum sulphur emission will be drastically reduced in order to protect overall human health and biodiversity.
Sulphur dioxide is an acidifying gaseous pollutant. It contributes to the acidification of the environment, which is detrimental to all ecosystems. Sulphur dioxide emissions are also responsible for the formation of toxic mists known as “SMOG”. Sulphur dioxide also has harmful effects on human health such as on lung function (coughing, respiratory problems, bronchitis, etc.).
A study on the impacts of sulphur dioxide on human health published in 2016 and cited by the IMO, estimates that “more than 570,000 premature deaths will be avoided between 2020 and 2025 thanks to the introduction of new regulations on maritime transport “.
More precisely, the IMO poised to ban shipping vessels using fuel with a sulphur content higher than 0.5%. When compared to the present upper limit of 3.5% this is a significant difference in sulphur content present in the environment. The usual marine fuel is thought to have a sulphur content of around 2.7%. This is the most impressive change in registry in the maritime world ever.
Today it’s imperative for ship owners and operators to consider and adopt various strategies to meet the new IMO regulations:
– Use of a lighter fuel oil such as marine diesel or a low sulphur fuel oil: this solution makes it possible to comply with the new standards planned however, higher fuel purchase costs must be anticipated.
– Installation of a smoke filter called “scrubber” on the ships’ chimneys to purify 99% of exhaust gases.
– Use of fuels such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG): LNG refuelling infrastructures remain rare because these ships are very expensive to produce.
– Use of electric power as a means of propulsion by ships.
– Due to this health risk it is evident that the reduction of sulphur oxides is the Maritime Transport Industry’s way of giving back and helping the environment.
This is a real environmental issue and involves major financial and technical investments for shipping companies. Whatever the solution chosen, additional costs and investments are to be anticipated.
Some potential impacts:
– The “IMO Sulphur 2020” regulation may lead to a reduction in the carrying capacity of ships.
– As the price difference between conventional HFO (Heavy Fuel Oil) and LSFO (Low Sulphur Fuel Oil) is very significant, many shipping companies are choosing to install scrubbers which immobilizes the vessel for about a month or invest in environmentally friendly ships.
– The new demand for fuel oil with a low sulphur content is likely to disrupt the market for petrol producers. It will take them a few months to find a balance between quantities of oil with a low or higher amount of sulphur.
– According to Patrik Berglund, CEO and co-founder of XENETA: “This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the shipping lines to jack up prices because the entire industry expects increased costs ”. But we will know more precisely in the coming months how the market will react.
In summary, these regulations will allow the industry to continue to prosper while responding to current environmental issues. And what is certain is that the shipping industry is strong and will remain the leader in the transport market.