Shipping lines and associations, including the ECG and ECSA, have vowed to continue fighting legislators to stop or delay the imminent MARPOL regulations designed to cut shipping fuel sulphur content on short sea routes in northern European waters. However, ocean forwarders should take a more constructive approach and cooperate with the European Commission according to its head of unit for Intelligent Transport Systems, Pawel Stelmaszczyk.
The current global limit on sulphur in marine fuels is 4.5%. The proposals demand that sulphur content be cut in two stages, to 3.5% from next year and to 0.1% from 2015. The rules incorporate global standards agreed in 2008 under Annex VI of the International Maritime Orgainisation’s (IMO’s) International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The Annex VI revision, which concentrates on air pollution, set limits on sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) from ship exhausts as well as setting out aims to cut particulate matter emissions by 80%.
Since the announcement of the regulation’s introduction ro-ro providers operating in the northern European waters have complained about a doubling in the price of fuel used and said that the rule will discriminate against short sea business in the North and Baltic seas, leading to a modal shift to land transport.
Last week the commercial and logistics director of Italian forwarder Grimaldi, and president of the European Association of Vehicle Logistics (ECG), Costantino Baldissara, said that short-sea vessels were already the most environmentally-friendly way of transporting goods, but he warned that forwarders would not agree to the new regulations, faced with such an increase in fuel costs.
“With this new law the [shipping lines] have to burn the low sulphur fuel as soon as they reach the North European sea. That means, instead of paying $650 of the bunker cost [in today’s prices], they will have to pay $1,000 and a ship moving cars is burning 55 tonnes a day. How are we going to afford that?” he asked.
“The ECG is going to fight to the last possible moment to stop or delay these regulations.”
Juan Riva Francos, president of the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), as well as head of the Spanish ro-ro provider Flota Suardiaz, cited studies that said the cost to shipping lines would be 75% higher than currently, and could lead to a modal shift of as much as 46% of freight from sea transport to road.
Baldissara went onto say point out that if the European Commission wants to take care of the environment it should ban 30-year-old vessels. “From tomorrow please don’t allow a single vessel that is burning bunker with old engines around the EU,” he said.
The EC’s Stelmaszczyk expressed sympathy for the concerns expressed by the shipping industry, and encouraged business leaders to take their complaints to national governments. Although he clarified that his department was neither responsible for passing or dealing with the regulations, he admitted that the sulphur regulations were a surprise to many in the Commission, and did seem to “have been put on the table in the middle of the night”.
However, he said that the Commission does not have much room for manoeuvre and rather than trying to “escape in denial”, shipping operators would be better employed working towards compliance. Stelmaszczyk recommended that closer dialogue now involving industry representatives and experts could help with the development of mitigating actions.
“I think the discussion will have a slightly different dynamic, rather than simply saying ‘no, it is impossible’ a year ahead of the deadline,” he said.
“We are all in deep trouble with this,” he admitted. “At the moment it is in the Baltic but it will come to the Mediterranean and to other parts of Europe. From the Commission’s perspective it would be a more constructive if there were some efforts made by industry at closer cooperation and to at least try and comply with this requirement.”
The question of shipping companies’ willingness to move in a more environmentally friendly direction was also called into question over a perceived lack of interest in LNG solutions. Stelmaszczyk went on to say that his own department had introduced some political priorities to help the forwarders switch to LNG power and that it had started to put in place a supply chain for LNG in the Baltic. “There wasn’t as much interest as I thought there would be,” he admitted.