UK Ports watching IMO with apprehension this week

• Ahead of discussions at the MEPC 74, the British Ports Association warns that IMO must maintain a relentless focus on long term measures that will have the biggest impact and not be distracted by gimmicks or convenient short term ‘solutions’ that delay meaningful action
• Ultimate prize is near zero emission shipping, which means radically speeding up development and adoption of clean fuels

UK ports are watching developments at the International Maritime Organization closely this week as the Marine Environment Protection Committee meets to debate a number of key issues for global shipping, including eye-catching proposals for speed limits.

Ports are on the front line of the effects of climate change and are already taking steps to adapt to increasingly common severe weather events and rising sea levels that have the potential to disrupt shipping and port operations. Ports are a critical part of the UK’s infrastructure, handling 95% of the UK’s trade, including our food and energy supply, and supporting a range of offshore activities including oil, gas and renewable energy, as well as fishing and marine tourism.

The British Ports Association welcomes action to address climate change at a global level, and is also supportive of the UK’s ambitions to move towards zero emission shipping as part of this. Ports and shipping are, however, part of the solution, not the problem. Shipping remains the cleanest way to move freight and is key to facilitating growth in offshore renewable energy generation.

We are concerned, however, that the focus is being shifted onto ports and unproven short-term measures and away from the real prize.

Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, said:

On tackling climate change:
“The IMO has set robust greenhouse gas emissions targets in an effort to avoid catastrophic climate change and it is important that these targets are now met with decisive action. Shipping remains by far the most efficient way to move freight around the planet and supports growth in our offshore renewable energy generation. Ports and shipping are very much part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. In the UK, shipping can help take less efficient trucks off our roads, easing congestion, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. At a global level, tackling air emissions in a meaningful, long term manner ultimately will require cleaner fuels and significant barriers remain to realising these goals.”

On proposals for mandatory speed limits:
“Slow steaming has a role to play, and already has helped bring down emissions. These proposals should be debated in a robust manner, but we have some concerns over mandatory slow steaming. It is not a panacea and may well have knock-on effects that have not been fully considered. Access to ports for certain vessels is often dependent on factors such as the weather and tides, and mandatory speed limits could make it more difficult for vessels and ports to plan calls.”

On proposals focused on port actions to support IMO targets:
“We have reservations around the presumption towards state investment in specific technologies and infrastructure, especially when we have not seen convincing (or in some cases, any) evidence that some of them are effective at reducing emissions overall. The IMO should have a relentless focus on reducing emissions from shipping and the introduction of cleaner fuels. Ports should remain the jurisdiction of nation states who know best how their ports can support the transition. The UK has an ambitious 30 year strategy to support this and overly-prescriptive proposals at the IMO are not helpful.”