The medium-term requirements of Marpol Annex VI, the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, are predicted to add to the worries of ship operators as the cost of the implementation in 2015 of a 0.1 per cent fuel sulphur limit within Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) will drive up the cost of fuel on top of the energy market costs.
In particular, European ferry operators feel very vulnerable and this prompted an intervention by the Ferry Operators Association, Interferry, at last week's 58th meeting of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The association urged the MEPC to reconsider current implementation plans but the submission was unsuccessful and according to Interferry's newsletter, the association's board of directors that is meeting in Hong Kong has decided that in future, national administrations must be lobbied before and during IMO meetings in order to achieve more success.
In order for Interferry to now get its arguments addressed by the MEPC, it is urging that a review clause be introduced into the process, similar to one being introduced for global shipping sulphur requirements.
Members of Interferry are being asked to lobby their national administrations with a submission.
The submission, drafted by Interferry, says that the proposed amendments to Marpol Annex VI are, in general, important steps in the right direction to further improve the use of environment-friendly transportation of passengers and goods worldwide. However, it seems clear that few have observed that one part of these amendments will be significantly counterproductive, both environmentally and to operator costs.
The thrust of Interferry's case is that the proposed limit of 0.1 per cent of sulphur in fuel used in SECAs from 2015 may 'at first glance' seem to be right for the environment, but it is evident that because of this there will be a modal back shift of significant proportions from sea to land in the cargo flow within Northern Europe and thus a significant increase to the load factor on the already strained network of land transportation routes and a consequential adverse environmental impact.
The submission goes on to stress that if the 0.1 per cent level is adopted, there will also be an additional cost of some $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion) per year to be carried by the operators within current SECAs. About half of that cost will affect short sea segments, like ferries, RoRos and container feeders and freight rates will have to be increased by around 30-35 per cent accordingly.
Marpol Annex VI entered into force in May 2005 but has recently been amended to approve a progressive reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships.
- The writer is a Dubai-based marine consultant