We are determining technical specifications to ensure clean and environment-friendly vessels, which have more stringent requirements than the minimum statutory IMO conditions..

We hope for an agreement in Copenhagen that can deal effectively with climate change. This would then be a catalyst for negotiations within the International Maritime Organisation.

Santanu Sanyal

As global leaders, carrying bulging briefcases and wearing grave faces, debate in Copenhagen on how to work out a proper policy framework to tackle the menace of rising carbon-dioxide emissions, there is a growing awareness worldwide about our vulnerability to a warming world.

Many shipping lines, too, are looking for alternatives to go greener. Here are the views of two top spokesmen of the shipping industry. One is Mr Nils Smedegaard Andersen, Group CEO of AP Moller-Maersk, the world's largest shipping group. And the other is Mr S. Hajara, Chairman & Managing Director, Shipping Corporation of India Ltd, India's biggest shipping company. Both responded to our queries on environmental issues relevant to the shipping industry, in general, and their companies, in particular.

Excerpts from the interview:

The shipping industry poses threats to the environment in various forms, such as air emissions, ballast water discharges, oil spills, energy consumption, ship-breaking and recycling, and waste handling. Which of these, according to you, causes the most concern?

Nils S. Andersen: They are all important issues to be dealt with. Generally, though, shipping is a very energy-efficient and environmental-friendly form of transportation. International shipping accounts for some 3-4 per cent of the world's CO {-2} emissions while it carries more than 80 per cent of the world's goods.

S. Hajara: The most serious threat to environment is oil spill in water due to leakage of oil from vessels, usually because of a damaged hull as a result of an accident or some impact.

Air emission containing nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides is also a serious concern as it pollutes the atmosphere around us; this problem is always there when the vessel is in port. Ballast water discharge also affects marine life in coastal waters, so corrective action is required on all counts. Recycling of vessels is related with its life-cycle, and waste handling on board is a minor issue as most vessels are installed with marine incinerators to deal with waste on board.

The International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978, (MARPOL) covers all possible pollution from ships — such as oil spills, discharge of noxious substances, sewage, garbage, air pollution, etc.

Shipping, however, is by far the most environment-friendly mode of transport. More than 90 per cent of international trade is carried by sea. If any alternative mode had been used to carry the bulk of international trade, by now world would have become unfit for human habitation.

As regards water pollution, shipping only contributes to a minuscule percentage of pollution, the main pollutants being chemical and other factories with their discharge into rivers, seas and oceans. Similarly, shipping only contributes about 2.7 per cent of air pollution; the rest is caused by other modes of transportation as well as various other shore-based industries.

How is world shipping striving to cope with these challenges?

NSA: Shipping is part of the problem, but with energy savings such as those we have enacted, shipping is certainly also part of the solution. As for the climate summit in Copenhagen (COP-15), we hope for a truly global agreement that can deal effectively with climate change. Such an agreement would then be a catalyst for negotiations within the International Maritime Organisation, (a UN agency), which is the best place to regulate shipping.

We hope decision-makers understand and appreciate that shipping is important for international trade as it is the most environment-friendly means of transportation.

S.H.: The IMO has already taken preventive action in this regard to prevent oil pollution and ensure reduction of air emissions containing nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxides. All old single-hull vessels are being phased out as per IMO rules. IMO has further made it mandatory for all newbuilding vessels to have double-hulls for fuel oil bunker tanks of over 30 cu.m. capacity.

IMO has further revised the MARPOL Annex VI regulation which deals with air emissions for stricter air emission control which will become mandatory from July 1, 2010.

The European Union has already issued a directive making it mandatory for vessels at berth and within port limits to use fuel oil with maximum content of sulphur 0.10 per cent by mass with effect from January 1, 2010.

The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments was adopted by consensus at a Diplomatic Conference at IMO in London in February 2004. This is not yet mandatory till now, though it is expected to be implemented by 2014 to 2016. Regarding recycling of vessels, the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009, was adopted in May 2009.

It is aimed at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose unnecessary risks to human health and safety or to the environment. These measures will most likely be effective from 2011. All these measures by the IMO and the EU will have a positive impact on the environment.

What is your company doing in this regard?

NSA: We constantly innovate to save energy and really look at all options from stern to bow. Maersk Line reduced its emissions by 15 per cent (2002-2008) and has a very ambitious target to reduce emissions per container moved by 20 per cent in the period 2007-2017. This goal comprises chartered vessels, ie. we share our expertise with the rest of the industry for the benefit of the climate.

The Group will reduce its emissions by 10 per cent between January 2008 and December 2012. To sum up, we deliver here and now at the best of our ability. And we lead the industry, which we think will be to our competitive advantage in the future.

S.H.: Shipping Corporation of India has taken a lead role in this regard. We are determining technical specifications of vessels with a view to ensuring clean and environment-friendly vessels, which have more stringent requirements than the minimum level of statutory IMO conditions.

All four VLCCs of the SCI acquired after 2005 have clean and environment-friendly notation. Even MR tankers delivered in October 2009 have a green passport from Lloyds Register of Shipping.

Further, once any new regulation on oil pollution or air pollution is published by the IMO, irrespective of effective date of application, we specify new technical specifications for our newbuilding vessels, for advance compliance.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 14, 2009)
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