The new sulfur emission regulations have been a hotly contended issue from the start but now debate has moved to their implementation, or more accurately, enforcing compliance. The enforcement of these regulations will be the driver of change, not the regulations themselves.
Europort envisages opportunities for innovation not just in relation to the technologies employed in order to be compliant but also in relation to enforcement. Imaginative tools for detection abound, ranging from technology on vessels to ‘sniff out’ the use of heavy fuel oil to unmanned drones with emission sensors.
Shipowners and operators should be deciding on which strategy to embrace for compliance not deciding whether or not to comply. However, inconsistent and weak rule enforcement, together with the prospect of potential punishments that are often insignificant, can create a ‘cost differential’ that amounts to a temptation not to comply at all.
Industry analyst SeaIntel recently revealed in a survey: “Our analysis showed that a 4,500 teu vessel sailing at 16 knots from the entrance of the Channel to Hamburg, using 1 percent sulfur fuel instead of the mandated 0.1 percent, would save EUR12,000 – six times more than the German fine, and that is just one way.”
However, failure to ensure uniform compliance with the sulfur emission limits will significantly distort the competition between shipowners globally, as it will not be sustainable for a compliant ship to compete with another ship operating in noncompliance. A level playing field is commercially critical for owners and without it there is a danger of a two-tier market developing. This would not be beneficial to the industry as a whole in the long-term; nor is it conducive to technological advancement.
Europort, in line with its position of supporting innovation and pioneering measures in relation to ship efficiency, is endorsing a responsible industry that looks to mitigate this risk by forming a coalition of shipowners and operators who share the common interest in consistent and robust enforcement of maritime sulfur regulations. The Trident Alliance is mainly focused on raising awareness of the issue, supported by member companies’ transparency on enforcement, as well as on initiatives to foster innovation in enforcement technology.
The Alliance has attracted some 31 member companies to date, including leading Dutch ship owners Spliethoff, Transfennica and Biglift.
“Spliethoff is glad to note that states like the Netherlands and Finland have sharpened their enforcement policy,” says Sjoerd Hupkes Wijnstra – environmental strategist and spokesman for the Spliethoff Group. “We are also pleased with the coordinating work on enforcement done by the European Sustainable Shipping Forum. Much work remains to be done, though.”
The Trident Alliance’s cause has recently been strengthened, with BIMCO adding its voice to the call on governments to exercise “robust” enforcement of sulfur limits applicable to ships operating in Emission Control Areas (ECAs). Following discussion at its recent board meeting, BIMCO President John Denholm described this position as crucial to maintaining a level playing field for shipping companies operating in ECAs and ensuring that compliant companies were not left at a disadvantage. The President said: “The maritime industry will shortly experience an unprecedented rise in operating costs as countries bordering ECAs implement very low limits for sulfur content in the fuel oils used by ships. BIMCO is calling on the governments of these countries to exercise robust enforcement of applicable sulphur limits to ensure a continued level playing field for ships operating in ECAs. Failure to do so would seriously expose compliant shipowners and operators who are bearing the high cost of ultra-low sulfur diesel oil.”
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.
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