Nick Jameson has been reporting on the shipping and the marine fuel industry for almost twenty years. He is based in Petromedia's UK office.
The German novelist Thomas Mann once speculated that 'everything is politics.' That's a frustrating thought for business-minded players who would rather politics and markets didn't mix.
But with less than six months to go before stricter sulphur limits come into force in emission control areas (ECAs), the worlds of politics and shipping have collided in confused debate.
Legislators have been lobbied by shipping companies clutching a handful of urgent demands. Those demands, while not exactly contradictory, highlight very different concerns. Some operators, particularly in Europe, want a delay in introducing the new rules. On the other hand, some of shipping's biggest names are pressing governments to prepare robust, watertight ECA enforcement.
The forces urging delay want time to take advantage of developments in scrubber technology and are calling for 'flexibility'. Although legislators for port cities have been sympathetic, governments have been unmoved. One European shipping minister responded to the calls by saying delay was not an option, adding he was disappointed the shipping industry representatives had even asked.
The lobby for strict policing, meanwhile, has sought assurances that ECA rules will be rigorously enforced and that 'cheating' won't become a 'business-efficient' policy. Those calls have struck a political chord. Several countries have outlined how they intend to make sure the rules are followed. The prospect of drones patrolling the shipping lanes to 'sniff out' sulphur emissions is no longer far-fetched.
It seems the slew of warnings that the cost of complying with ECA regulations could drive some operators out of business has failed to find political traction.
The reality is that the time for influencing emission control regulation has long passed, at least as far as the 2015 ECA rules are concerned. Those regulations were agreed at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as long ago as 2008. The arguments that drove that decision have not gone away, in fact they have become embedded. Politicians engaged with the problems of ship-generated air pollution have heard no serious opposition to the idea that sulphur emissions from ships have caused premature deaths, perhaps as many as 50,000 a year. Given the background, political cover for reducing sulphur emissions is almost guaranteed.
That might be a point for the shipping industry to ponder as it contemplates the demand for a global sulphur cap of 0.50%, possibly as early as 2020. That cap promises to transform the industry. The relatively cheap, high sulphur residual fuels that have been the staple of the bunker market for much of the last century will only be an option for ships equipped with emission abatement systems.
There is to be a review on the availability of low sulphur product and there is a chance that the global deadline will be pushed back to 2025. If that is what players in the shipping and bunker industries want they probably need to start honing their political skills. Predictions of commercial disaster and demands more time are unlikely to carry the day in a political reality troubled by the environmental price of economic success.
" The reality is that the time for influencing emission control regulation has long passed, at least as far as the 2015 ECA rules are concerned. Those regulations were agreed at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as long ago as 2008."
I add this: "The shipping companies have ignored more than 50 years , that the wind can solve (partly) their Oil problem and therefor also reduce their GHG - emissions, they have still poisened the air, we breath; see www.ecoliners.eu and www.windships.de
The development of the coal over the oil towards the distillates continues towards the wind.
Although the first cargo sailer without an engine is just a crumb in the large field of 70000 ships worldwide, but he gives the signal: http://www.svtreshombres.com/ - it is possible and the plans of the shipowners continue towards greater modern cargo sailer: http: //www.ecoliners.eu/ whose sail system is based on the plans of Wilhelm Prölss and it will be the experience of www.symaltesefalcon.com used.
Thanks to http://www.sustainableshipping.com/ to inform us with the newsletters on these problems.