London, 31st March 2008. The 57th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee starts today in London, and GHG emissions from shipping is a key item on the agenda.

London, 31st March 2008. The 57th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee starts today in London, and GHG emissions from shipping is a key item on the agenda.

Despite many years of concern and repeated requests for it to act, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has so far done nothing to tackle CO2 emissions from shipping. The patience of regulators from outside the IMO, and at EU level in particular, appears to be running out, and all are watching the IMO this week to see what happens. A failure to make substantial progress towards real reductions in CO2 emissions from shipping will almost certainly lead to measures elsewhere and in particular to a proposal from the European Commission. With reports estimating CO2 emissions from shipping as high as 4.5% of total global CO2 emissions and the industry set to grow dramatically in the decades ahead the need for action is urgent. The meeting will consider a number of technical, operational and market-based measures that could be used to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping.

The meeting will also consider calls for a global switch away from ships using dirty residual heavy fuel oil (HFO) to the use of relatively clean marine diesel oil (MDO). This is an effective method of addressing non-GHG air pollution from shipping (SOx, NOx and PM), and an alternative to the ship-by-ship installation of on-board flue gas cleaning and dual-fuel systems (with MDO only being used in special areas). Advocates of this approach, including a significant segment of the shipping industry, are rightly asking why deal with the problem of air pollution in tens of thousands of individual ships when it can (and should) be dealt with via changes at just a few hundred oil refineries. Reduced engine room waste, more reliable ship operation, and improved on-board working conditions are additional benefits. While it appears that the initial shift from HFO to MDO will have only a marginal effect on CO2 emissions, the use of MDO may in the longer term make it easier for marine engine designers to improve efficiency and reduce GHG emissions.

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