Global Shipping @ Paris Climate Change Conference 2015

By December 30, 2015 Article, Marine News No Comments

^Shipping is a Genuinely Globalized Operation. Image Courtesy of Atiketta Sangasaeng at

Whose Law Should They Follow Anyway?

Now, this will surely surprise you! International frameworks that seek to stall the vicious juggernaut of climate change do not cover global shipping and international aviation. This, despite the two being among the major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Back in 1997, negotiators at the Kyoto Conference were bargaining hard to forge a deal to stall climate change. You would have expected them to be redouble their endeavor when it came to the shipping and the aviation industries.

After all, global shipping discharges about 3.1% of the world’s Carbon dioxide (CO2) and around 2.8% of the total GHGs. If international shipping were a country-economy, it would be the world’s sixth largest emitter of CO2.

And aviation? GHG emissions from aviation account for roughly 2% of the global total. Excluding such vital sectors from the ambit of emission regulations is bound to make them toothless. What then was the overwhelming logic behind making such an exception?

There is, as always, more to it than meets the eye. Ships ply between umpteen countries, ports, and regions each with its own emission cap. Which cap should they adhere to? The issue was, and is, so annoying, the negotiators at Kyoto chose to leave it alone.

Melting Glaciers: An Effect of Global Warming & Climate Change  Image Courtesy of Bernhard Staehli at

Melting Glaciers: An Effect of Global Warming & Climate Change
Image Courtesy of Bernhard Staehli at

Thereafter, UN-backed bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have dealt with the issue respectively for shipping and aviation. Given the fundamental regulatory flaw, they have achieved precious little.

By the way, after realizing that shipping is the only sector without an emission cap, the European Union (EU) decided to remedy the shortcoming in 2009. By 2012, the EU diluted this resolve to merely monitoring shipping emissions. So complex is the issue!

Even at the recently concluded Paris Climate Change Conference, the shipping sector was not a part of formal negotiations. We analyze here the measures that can slash emissions from ships and how the Paris Summit might influence developments in global shipping.

Paris Climate Change Conference 2015 & the Global Shipping Community

Experts say, the IMO and the ICAO start their march towards greener goals when climate change summits such as those in Copenhagen and Paris are in the making. This was clearly visible in the run up to the Paris Summit.

Stalwarts from the shipping world underscored the need for stricter regulations and more technological innovations to achieve lofty emission reduction targets.

December 1 witnessed the congregation of titans from the shipping world at the Shipping as Part of the Climate Solution Conference organized by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA), and the Armateurs de France.

Focused on bringing in more demanding regulations, participants at the conference were categorical on doing so without undermining the ability of shipping to facilitate global economic growth. For, shipping is a channel for over 90% of international trade.

Rising Sea Levels Mean Beach Houses Now Face Submergence Image Courtesy of ribeiroantonio at

Rising Sea Levels Mean Beach Houses Now Face Submergence
Image Courtesy of ribeiroantonio at

While the ICS firmly supports the IMO requirement for all ships built after 2025 to be at least 30% more fuel-efficient, it opposes the proposal to treat shipping as a developed country for the purpose CO2 emission caps.

Such opposition is based on a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) study that highlights the role of global shipping as a facilitator of economic development of both, developed and developing nations.

The said 30% target is based on the goal of slashing CO2 emissions per tone-km by 50% before 2050. Both IMO and ICAO remain opposed to the idea of being singled out for a green tax / levy.

Neither is the IMO in favor of an overall emission reduction target. This was evident from its recent rejection of a proposal for such a cap made by the Marshall Islands. The IMO is only reflecting the view of the shipping industry. And there is good reason for this concurrence as we have noted.

One area where the Paris summit made a fresh headway is denting the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). Accepted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, CBDR places greater responsibility on developed nations for fighting climate change.

Increased Aridity & Droughts are a Direct Result of Climate Change  Image Courtesy of EdgeOfReason at

Increased Aridity & Droughts are a Direct Result of Climate Change
Image Courtesy of EdgeOfReason at

This is based on the logic that the developed nations of the present day have historically emitted more GHGs in order to get to where they are today. Developing nations have only recently embarked on this path.

Perhaps the most visible achievement of the Paris Climate Change Agreement was a slight denting of the CBDR. From now on, all nations – rich or poor, developed or developing – will have to undertake at least some minimum action to fight climate change.

Another major outcome of the summit was to get representatives from the 196 participating states to commit to the loftier goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.50C over pre-industrial levels if possible.

Of course, the binding target to restrict temperature rise to below 20C remains in place. To achieve the 1.50C goal, we will all have to migrate to net zero carbon emissions between 2030 and 2050.

If temperatures rise 20C above pre-industrial levels, we will experience runaway destruction in the form of catastrophic floods, pronounced droughts, mass extinctions, and violent storms to name a few.

But the agreement does not set any emission caps for each nation. Instead, it asks them to set their own targets that are to progressively grow more stringent. And this does nothing to address the said fundamental regulatory flaw for shipping emissions.

Increased Incidences of Forest Fires are an Effect of Climate Change  Image Courtesy of diak at

Increased Incidences of Forest Fires are an Effect of Climate Change
Image Courtesy of diak at

Then again, there are no penal provisions for defaulters. The $100billion a year promised by developed nations to developing countries to aid this transition is not binding.

Furthermore, the agreement does not come into force until 55 countries representing 55% of the global GHG emissions ratify it. If China and the U.S. that respectively account for 24% and 14% of the global GHG emissions do not agree, it will be quite a waste.

Lowering Shipping Emissions

A host of green measures are available to slash emissions from ships. These include:

  • Adopt Better Operational Practices such as Slow Steaming
  • Boost Fuel Efficiency through Technological Advance
  • Utilize Low-Carbon Fuels

Slow Steaming: Fuel costs make up the single largest element of a ship’s voyage operating cost. This may hit as much as 70%. The shipping industry therefore has an inherent incentive in cutting down fuel consumption that also lowers emissions.

This is also the reason why the shipping industry places such a high premium on more fuel-efficient engines. Direct evidence of this incentive comes from the widespread adoption of slow steaming i.e. running ships at less than their maximum speeds to lower fuel consumption.

Slow Steaming Cuts Fuel Use & Emissions   Image Courtesy of DJ40 at

Slow Steaming Cuts Fuel Use & Emissions
Image Courtesy of DJ40 at

Slow steaming has already cut down the total emissions from shipping in the past few years. And because ships around the world will have to switch to expensive fuel with less than 0.5% (by mass) sulphur from 2020 onwards, slow steaming will be more necessary than ever before.

Cutting a vessels speed by 10% lowers its emissions by 27%. But such slow plying will hike the number of ships needed to carry the same quantity of goods. If we factor in this possibility, the emission reduction drops to 19%. Shipping emissions actually declined by 10% in 2007-12.

Also, lowering the speed of a typical container ship sailing at average speed by 3knots, brings down the resistance of its hull with water by as much as 50%.

This is the most cost-effective way to cut emissions. The shipping industry started this practice to deal with the slump in demand for shipping in the aftermath of the global economic crisis of 2008.

Fuel Efficiency: IMO approved the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) in July 2011. It entered force from January 1, 2013 and imposes energy efficiency requirements on new ships. These norms will tighten progressively.

EEDI is the first globally-mandatory climate change standard and applies to 180 states. It requires:

  • 10% more energy efficiency for new vessels built from 2015 to 2019
  • 15-20% higher energy efficiency from fresh ships constructed between 2020 and 2024
  • 30% better energy efficiency for vessels made after 2024

By 2030, EEDI will cut CO2 emissions by 10-20% as compared to continuing with the present state of affairs. But considering the speed of fleet renewal, it will take the dawn of 2035 before EEDI can make sizable difference to emissions from global shipping.

Large Number of Smaller Engines are More Efficient than Small Number of Larger Engines    Image Courtesy of at

Large Number of Smaller Engines are More Efficient than Small Number of Larger Engines
Image Courtesy of at

States that may not want to be a part of the EEDI regimen have till 2017 to get their house in order. The incentive is, vessels that do not comply with EEDI norms will fetch lower prices in the used-ship market and not attract charterers as their EEDI-compliant counterparts will.

Because EEDI digresses from the CBDR principle, developing nations resist it. But if the EEDI includes CBDR, owners and operators will easily qualify for laxer emission norms by changing the registration of the ship from that of a developed state to a developing one.

New ships are already performing well beyond the standards put in place by the EEDI. The IMO is also working on a global data collection system to oversee ship emissions.

Large Ships are More Fuel Efficient     Image Courtesy of ptnphoto at

Large Ships are More Fuel Efficient
Image Courtesy of ptnphoto at

Technological solutions include the use of:

  • Large Ships: burn less fuel per unit transported cargo as compared to two smaller ships with a combined cargo carrying capacity equal to that of the large ship

This is because a large ship weighs less and has lesser wetted hull area and therefore less hull resistance as compared to the said two smaller ships. Plus, larger ships are more stable and require less ballast water. With less weight to carry around, it burns less fuel

Factors such as harbor depth, capacity of cargo handling equipment at ports, and sizes of important canals such as the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal impose limits on ship sizes

  • Hull-Propeller Optimization: after the size of ships has expanded to its maximum possible limit, further improvement in fuel efficiency comes with such optimization
  • More Efficient Engines and their Configuration: installing a series of smaller diesel-electric engines, for example, instead of a few large diesels makes the overall propulsion more efficient across a greater range of speeds

Similarly, combined-cycle diesel engines that utilize waste heat and convert it into useable energy provide better efficiency

  • Innovative Hull Coatings: include air bubbles and special polymers that lower the resistance of the hull with water

Alternative Fuels: Switching over from the high-carbon residual or heavy fuel oil to liquefied natural gas (LNG) or low-carbon marine diesel oil slashes emissions substantially. Biofuels, wind power from sails, hydrogen cells, and solar photovoltaic cells also hold the green promise.

Fuel Combustion Reaction
Methane CO2 + 2H2O
Ethanol 4CO2 + 6H2O
Gasoline 8CO2 + 9H2O


LNG usually is 95% methane making it vastly cleaner than gasoline. And gasoline is cleaner than diesel, for diesel discharges 13% more CO2 than gasoline. The table above illustrates the point.


Global financial and energy markets will shift from investing in oil, coal, and gas to solar, wind, and nuclear power. Finance will remain the crucial issue because funding the transformation from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable-based one will neither be easy nor inexpensive.

Stay with our blog to keep abreast of all the latest developments that impact the shipping world. And for top marine fabrication services, marine pipe fitting, and large scale custom metal fabrication, contact Kemplon Engineering.