With climate change now redefined as The Climate Emergency, the political will to take action on maritime greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has developed dramatically over the past few months. This follows previously agreed IMO mandates for a global 40% energy efficiency improvement by 2030 and a 50% improvement by 2050 as compared to 2008 values.
Towards these targets, the IMO has proposed short-term measures to be implemented by 2023. The suggested measures include not only stricter requirements on the Energy Efficiency Design Index, shaft power and speed, but also a retroactive application – meaning that existing ships will need to be adapted to meet the efficiency standard of new designs. More so than in any other shipping segment, the viability of existing ro-ro and ro-pax vessels will be at risk if such proposals fail to recognise the sector-specific dictates of ferry design and operation.
The ferry sector is already widely acknowledged as the shipping industry’s leader in the drive towards zero emissions. Long before the IMO’s latest regulatory proposals, many ferry operators have embraced their societal role in helping to protect the planet by taking it upon themselves to decarbonise. However, while clearly supporting the general objective of environmental sustainability, Interferry is concerned at the unprecedented potential restrictions now facing the ferry community. We are currently preparing submissions for imminent IMO meetings, where we will provide our input to ensure that the solutions taken forward are ferry-appropriate.
Meanwhile, as background guidance for members, we present the following interview with Poul Woodall, environment and sustainability director at DFDS and chair of Interferry’s GHG Working Group.
Q: Greenhouse gases have been on the IMO and European Union agendas for a long time, so why do things suddenly seem so urgent?
PW: These are unprecedented times not just for the ferry sector but for the shipping industry in general. We have never faced a challenge like this. The reason it’s so urgent is due to the timetable the IMO has imposed on itself, particularly under pressure coming from the EU.
GHG has been on the agenda for quite a while, but now we have a deadline of 2023 to implement a number of short term measures. That’s a very short time in the workings of the IMO. We must decide what the measures are, how we measure them and how we police.
The big one is the energy efficiency index for existing ships – EEXI – combined with the operational efficiency target. EEXI covers the physical as opposed to operational aspects of an already existing ship. It’s the next step towards 2030.
Q: We already have technical efficiency requirements for new ships. Why can’t these be imposed on older ships?
PW: Newbuild requirements are a tough call, but we can’t apply them to existing ships in any reasonable way because they were built at different times to different standards. Furthermore, the newbuild requirements can be addressed from a design perspective, but you cannot reshape the hull of an existing ship.
Q: Is there anything particular to ro-ro and ro-pax ships that makes it more difficult for them to reduce their CO2 emissions?
PW: EEDI and EEXI will measure efficiency on the basis of a ship’s ability to carry weight. That’s not relevant to the ferry sector, where carrying ability is measured by volume. We must work out how to better measure ferries’ performance on this basis. Our definition of what makes an efficient ship has to be different because our cargo – which includes passengers – is so different to the majority of ships.
Q: Can’t operators just slow down to improve their performance per passenger or cargo unit transported?
PW: The speed issue has two aspects. The first is technical – and just slowing down doesn’t necessarily make a ship more efficient. But there is another side to this. The ferry business is part of the infrastructure of society. It’s like a bus service – and that’s not more efficient if you slow down and have to adjust timetables. We don’t have the option to go slower because of the product we offer to society. In this respect there is wide recognition that ferries are a special case, but authorities are increasingly looking at ways to tap into every potential.
Q: Is the IMO timeline realistic?
PW: Shipping in general will never get to the 2050 objective – a 50% reduction in absolute terms as compared to 2008 – with the way the industry is today. I’m fairly confident we will achieve the 2030 target for a 40% improvement on relative efficiency with current technology, but for 2050 we will need fossil-free fuels. The question then is about what the fuels will be and what can be scaled up to the requirements of maritime transport.
Q: What happens if the EU is not satisfied with the outcome of the IMO’s work?
PW: In November the new EU Commission said shipping should be part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and said it would implement its own system. By June 2020 it will come up with specific proposals. In my opinion that would be a disaster because it’s a regional solution and shipping is global. Making local regulations disturbs the whole competitive playing field.
Q: What must Interferry do to support a positive outcome on these rapid developments?
PW: The speed with which new regulations are being proposed makes this a very complex situation. It must not be rushed through. We have to make sure that we have covered all the bases, but time is short – the next meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee takes place in the first week of April.
Interferry is highlighting the special challenge to our sector not only at the IMO and EU but also to the rest of the shipping industry. We are trying to communicate what needs to be looked at differently. There is no doubting the need for the next package of regulations, but we want the commercial realities of the ferry industry to be taken into account when setting the targets and measuring the improvements. You can’t change everything with one big brush because one size does not fit all. For existing ro-ro and ro-pax vessels to comply, it’s all about the metrics.
Further details are available in the following documents:
An online workshop document prepared by Interferry’s GHG Working Group
An Interferry briefing on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme