MURKY WATERS, CLOUDY SKIES

There’s quite the contrast between the land-locked Midlands and the lush Mediterranean, but the pulse of logistics remains similarly fast paced. 

Sometimes, this speed can come at a price. October 7th saw a Cypriot container ship and a Tunisian ro-ro vessel collide off the coast of Corsica. The resulting breach in the bunker of the container ship has meant a pollution ribbon almost 4km long. (At the time of writing, no official cause for the collision has been released.)

This isn’t the first time this year we’ve heard concerns about the state of the Mediterranean Sea. Environmental experts from around Europe have raised concerns around pollution across the region, with reports of ‘toxic’ levels of air pollution, increased rates of cancer reported in some regions and plastic waste leaving a deadly legacy in the Mediterranean Sea. Still, despite the concerns, the IMO’s (International Maritime Association) 2020 low-sulfur mandate has murkied the Med’s typically crystal waters, considerably. 

I attended the Capital Link Shipping and Marine Services Forum at the Royal Society in September where the conversation was dominated by this 2020 initiative. It was talked about as something akin to a ticking time-bomb. There are 22 months to ‘action turnaround’ – turnaround primarily being a reduction in the amount of carbon reduction from 3.5% to 0.5% – but there is still a vast amount of confusion regarding how to deal with regional legislation. 

The general consensus at the Capital Link Forum were that the chances of the IMO initiative being delayed are ‘very, very slim’. Given that the IMO’s own Director of Legal and External Affairs, Frederick J. Kenney, confirmed that the organisation is lobbying to cut the shipping industry’s greenhouse emissions in half by 2050, and hopes for zero emissions to be achieved ‘by the end of the century’, one would hope this consensus is founded in truth. During a panel titled Everything Flows, Nothing Stands Still – Game Changers & Future of the Shipping Industry, Kenney described aims for a ‘globally adopted uniformly implemented regime of regulation’ which would assist in this process, but he recognised that said implementation is a challenge. 

One of the solutions which has been discussed almost incessantly, not only at this Forum but in the press, is scrubbers. One of the issues that the sea-freight industry is having involves obtaining low-sulfur fuel oil. Scrubbers work by being fitted onto a ship, eliminating the sulfur from the fuel. This saves the cost of swapping out to another type of fuel (likely more expensive) or upgrading the ship’s technology.

There is a delicate relationship to be forged between environmental needs, regulatory possibilities and economic momentum. There are concerns that ‘innocent parties’ could be paralyzed; for example, smaller shipping lines who may not be able to afford low-sulfur fuel, which is expected to cost double of what high-sulfur fuel does, or alternatives such as liquified natural gas. Scrubbers are also an expensive option, and there are questions to be asked about their longevity vs cost. Although scrubbers can assist in emissions reduction, they are only capable of eliminating one type of exhaust at a time (either Sulfur or Nitrogen Oxide), and the emissions are eliminated into either a solid paste or a powder which still needs to be either reused or disposed of.

This is just sea freight, without the consideration of any other modes of logistics. There’s some way to go to navigate the intricacies of lowering carbon emissions without impacting the livelihoods of SMEs too considerably.

As Frederick Kenney put it during his panel at Capital Link: ‘Are we there yet? No’.

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine  

There’s quite the contrast between the land-locked Midlands and the lush Mediterranean, but the pulse of logistics remains similarly fast paced. 

Sometimes, this speed can come at a price. October 7th saw a Cypriot container ship and a Tunisian ro-ro vessel collide off the coast of Corsica. The resulting breach in the bunker of the container ship has meant a pollution ribbon almost 4km long. (At the time of writing, no official cause for the collision has been released.)

This isn’t the first time this year we’ve heard concerns about the state of the Mediterranean Sea. Environmental experts from around Europe have raised concerns around pollution across the region, with reports of ‘toxic’ levels of air pollution, increased rates of cancer reported in some regions and plastic waste leaving a deadly legacy in the Mediterranean Sea. Still, despite the concerns, the IMO’s (International Maritime Association) 2020 low-sulfur mandate has murkied the Med’s typically crystal waters, considerably. 

I attended the Capital Link Shipping and Marine Services Forum at the Royal Society in September where the conversation was dominated by this 2020 initiative. It was talked about as something akin to a ticking time-bomb. There are 22 months to ‘action turnaround’ – turnaround primarily being a reduction in the amount of carbon reduction from 3.5% to 0.5% – but there is still a vast amount of confusion regarding how to deal with regional legislation. 

The general consensus at the Capital Link Forum were that the chances of the IMO initiative being delayed are ‘very, very slim’. Given that the IMO’s own Director of Legal and External Affairs, Frederick J. Kenney, confirmed that the organisation is lobbying to cut the shipping industry’s greenhouse emissions in half by 2050, and hopes for zero emissions to be achieved ‘by the end of the century’, one would hope this consensus is founded in truth. During a panel titled Everything Flows, Nothing Stands Still – Game Changers & Future of the Shipping Industry, Kenney described aims for a ‘globally adopted uniformly implemented regime of regulation’ which would assist in this process, but he recognised that said implementation is a challenge. 

One of the solutions which has been discussed almost incessantly, not only at this Forum but in the press, is scrubbers. One of the issues that the sea-freight industry is having involves obtaining low-sulfur fuel oil. Scrubbers work by being fitted onto a ship, eliminating the sulfur from the fuel. This saves the cost of swapping out to another type of fuel (likely more expensive) or upgrading the ship’s technology.

There is a delicate relationship to be forged between environmental needs, regulatory possibilities and economic momentum. There are concerns that ‘innocent parties’ could be paralyzed; for example, smaller shipping lines who may not be able to afford low-sulfur fuel, which is expected to cost double of what high-sulfur fuel does, or alternatives such as liquified natural gas. Scrubbers are also an expensive option, and there are questions to be asked about their longevity vs cost. Although scrubbers can assist in emissions reduction, they are only capable of eliminating one type of exhaust at a time (either Sulfur or Nitrogen Oxide), and the emissions are eliminated into either a solid paste or a powder which still needs to be either reused or disposed of.

This is just sea freight, without the consideration of any other modes of logistics. There’s some way to go to navigate the intricacies of lowering carbon emissions without impacting the livelihoods of SMEs too considerably.

As Frederick Kenney put it during his panel at Capital Link: ‘Are we there yet? No’.

Sarah O’Connell, Senior Editor, FORWARDER magazine  

2019-01-04T10:16:03+00:00October 19th, 2018|Categories: Mediterranean|
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