Carbon Emissions

Source: Graph provided by Network for Transport and the Environment

Maritime shipping is the world’s most carbon-efficient form of transporting goods – far more efficient than road or air transport. Yet, the industry seeks to further improve the fuel efficiency and carbon footprint of its vessels. Today’s container ships and vehicle carriers enable the movement of tremendous volumes of goods across the world, which has fueled global economic growth in a manner considered implausible only 50 or 60 years ago.

The World Shipping Council (WSC) and its member companies are engaged in numerous efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and further improve efficiency across the fleet. (See the Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ about carbon emissions and shipping)

Efforts focus on significant improvements to fuel economy with a subsequent reduction in emissions. These efforts include the introduction of new, larger and more efficient vessels, slow steaming and technical modifications to existing ships. The majority of new ships built by WSC Member companies since 2013 are approximately 30-40% more carbon efficient than those ships they replaced.  This is a tremendous step forward in ship efficiency and demonstrates how carriers are devoting considerable effort to lower emissions and transportation costs.

In April 2015, Drewry Supply Chain Advisors independently concluded that carriers’ efforts are paying off when it declared in its Logistics Executive Briefing that  “Shipping is cutting CO2 emissions.”  In addition, studies undertaken at the IMO conclude that total GHG emissions from international shipping actually decreased by 10% between 2007 and 2012 while cargo carried by the world fleet increased during that period.

The liner shipping industry through WSC is also working with governments at the IMO to develop effective international regulations that will result in reduced carbon emissions from shipping. Those discussions can be summarized as follows.

Vessel Energy Efficiency Design standards

In recent years, discussions at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have resulted in the development of an Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) that led to the adoption in 2011 of legally-binding energy efficiency standards applicable to newly-built ships. The standards apply to ships built in 2013 and later and require all future ships to meet increasingly stringent fuel economy standards over time. Learn more

The EEDI (Energy Efficiency Design Index) represents a measure of the relative efficiency of a vessel by establishing an index to measure the inherent design efficiency of a given vessel in moving a given cargo volume over a given distance. Learn more

The World Shipping Council (WSC) strongly supports the use of energy efficiency design standards for ships.  Energy efficency design standards have been created for autombiles, appliances, and other types of energy consuming activities.  They can provide meaningful and lasting improvements in energy efficiency and reduce the amount of fuel required for operation.  Because fuel costs are a substantial portion of a ship’s operating costs, ocean carriers have a huge interest in reducing the amount of fuel their ships consume, and have undertaken numberiuos initiatives to improve fuel efficiency – from reducing vessel speed, to sharing their vessels with other carriers, to building larger ships that are more energy efficient per unit of cargo carried.

In 2017, the IMO will begin discussions to develop even more stringent energy-efficient Phase 4 design standards applicable to new ships built after an agreed date in the future.  In addition, the IMO will consider moving the current Phase 3 standards (currently applicable to new ships built after January 1, 2025) forward to 2022 or 2023.

Vessel Energy Efficiency Operating standards

As noted above, the IMO has adopted enrgy efficiency design standards that apply to the design and construction of newly built ships. To develop operational energy-efficiency standards that measure actual fuel consumptions over a specific period presents very different problems.  Significant variations in environmental conditions (e.g. weather, sea condition, currents) experienced by ships suggest that development of equitable operational standards is infeasible.

For example, a person may purchase a car that is designed to achieve X miles per gallon in city driving and Y miles per gallon on the highway; however, no government regulates how the purchaser operates the car from a fuel efficiency perspective once it has been purchased or what amount of fuel a given vehicle might consume in a single year. There are numerous variables that will determine how much fuel is consumed by a particular vehicle. For example, does one drive in a flat area or somewhere or somewhere characterized by large changes in elevation; is the vehicle used primarily in stop and go urban traffic where fuel consumption is higher or in highway driving where fuel consumption is much better for most vehicles?  In marine shipping, vessels are subject to changing commercial and environmental conditions as they move from one trade lane or geographic area to another.  These changing conditions directly affect in-use fuel consumption, yet the increase or decrease in fuel consumption associated with changing commercial and environmental conditions is something over which the operator has little or no control.

Recognizing these issues, WSC, with the support of many other maritime industry organizations, WSC submitted comments to the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) outlining a series of concerns and policy questions concerning proposals at the IMO to establish energy efficiency standards applicable to ships. The paper received broad support from a majority of governments at the IMO, which has invited member governments to address the questions raised in the WSC paper.  Further discussion of this issue is likely to arise as IMO considers what strategies will be most appropriate to address GHG emissions from international shipping.


IMO Strategy for Reduction of GHG Emissions from International Shipping

The IMO agreed in October 2016 to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing GHG emissions from international shipping.  The strategy will consider different actions that can be pursued to reduce GHG emissions from shipping over the short, medium, and long term.  An initial GHG reduction strategy is expected to be agreed in 2018 with subsequent review and revision through 2023 using ship specific data generated by IMO’s recently adopted data collection system.  The IMO data system will collect in-use fuel consumption data from ships with annual reporting that will allow governments and other stakeholders to accurately assess fuel consumption and emissions generated by international shipping.   WSC and its member companies are actively engaged in considering appropriate strategies to further reduce fuel consumption and to reduce emissions through the IMO GHG strategy.  Potential pathways for reducing emissions in the fleet include actions to address existing fleet emissions, research and development aimed at evaluating alternative fuels and propulsion systems, further development of energy efficiency design standards for new ships, and further work on innovative technologies devoted to further reducing emissions across a sector that is already the most carbon efficient form of transportation in the world and that continues to improve.