When it comes to discussions of the Arctic here in Canada, there is an emphasis on the importance of maintaining sovereignty and preservation of the unique environment but with far less consideration to the economic opportunities that the Arctic represents. By contrast, Russia and China are both aggressively moving to advance their Arctic interests, even though China is not geographically speaking an Arctic power.
With the deadline for implementation of IMO 2020 now in the rearview mirror, we are on what might be described as step two of a ten-step ladder to be climbed if shipping is to meet the ambitious IMO targets for 2030 and 2050 which ultimately call for a reduction in total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of at least 50% by 2050 compared with 2008 levels while simultaneously pursuing efforts to eliminate emissions entirely.
To give this discussion some perspective, the International Chamber of Shipping, representing the full spectrum of maritime nations and related NGOs, often reminds us that 90% of world trade is reliant on marine transportation. While much of this is largely out of the public eye, the conduct of maritime commerce earns ship owners an estimated $500 billion annually in freight rates, much of which is reinvested, of necessity, in new tonnage.
The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has recently highlighted the ongoing problem of dealing with containership fires. The problem is not a new one but with the increase in size of container ships in the last few years, dealing with such an event has become extremely challenging.
The futuristic design of some of today’s ships draws a variety of responses depending on whether you hold a traditional or futurist perspective. For those of us who began our careers on general cargo ships and/or on tankers with accommodation amidships, just at the time when the industry was flirting with the idea of fully cellular container ships, what is now the norm could hardly have been imagined.
Our industry is complex enough at the best of times but as we approach one of the most critical deadlines ever set by the IMO, minds are focused as never before on how best to respond.
So, what is the issue? A decision was taken by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) at its 70th session in October 2016 to implement a global sulphur limit of 0.5% on approximately 50,000 ships worldwide effective January 1, 2020. This obviously represents a significant reduction from the current allowable global sulphur limit of 3.5%.