In April of this year a hundred countries that are part of the IMO They decided to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the next years. Among other goals, that agreement established that in 2030 international maritime transport must have reduced carbon dioxide by 40% (COtwo) -The main greenhouse gas- with respect to 2008 levels. By 2050, this reduction should be 70%. Some of the concrete measures to meet those goals, among which the limitation of the speed of the big ships was already proposed in April, should now be approved at a meeting held this month in London by IMO.
The proposal that the governments will discuss recalls that the objective is to introduce in the international navigation standards the "concept of mandatory maximum operating speeds" depending on the type of vessel and its size. In addition, the text indicates that these maximum speeds, only applicable for international journeys, could enter into force between 2021 and 2022.
Just a few days ago, the IPCC (the scientific advisory group of the UN on climate change) warned that the planet he was running out of time in the battle against climate change. And he urged governments to apply drastic measures if the warming is to be within manageable limits.
When a country adheres to Paris Agreement against climate change is obliged to present a national plan to reduce greenhouse gases. But there are dark areas in that international pact, dating from 2015. And one of those blind spots is international navigation, as are non-domestic flights. As these are activities that do not take place within the territory of a single country, the trips of large vessels between different States do not fall within any of those national emissions reduction plans. That is why they are important agreements such as the one of the IMO of April of this year.
The international maritime transport expelled in 2015 (the last year of which the IMO has closed figures) 812 million tons of COtwo to the atmosphere, which accounts for 2.25% of all carbon dioxide from human activities on the planet. The problem is the projections for the future; if hard measures are not applied, in 2075 emissions from this sector will be around 3,500 million tons, according to estimates of the International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT, its acronym in English). Hence the importance of measures such as speed limitations that will be addressed within the IMO this month.
Protection of cetaceans
But it's not just a question related to climate change. This is what the researcher Regina Asmutis-Silvia, the NGO's executive director in North America, believes Conservation of Whales and Dolphins (WDC, its acronym in English). "One of the biggest benefits of reducing speeds is that the noise of the ships is also reduced. Whales are acoustic animals and studies have shown that noise from ships affects their ability to communicate or find food and increases their level of stress hormones, "says via email Asmutis-Silvia.
Another risk for these large cetaceans is that of collisions. Asmutis-Silvia says that research shows that reducing the speed of ships below 15 knots limits "the risk of a fatal collision with whales."
And there are already experiences in some parts of the world. "Along the east coast of the United States there is a seasonal limitation that forces all vessels over 20 meters in length to comply with a maximum speed of 10 knots," explains this specialist. "Research shows that the risk of a fatal ship collision for right whales along the eastern coast of the US has decreased by 80% to 90% since the limitation was imposed," Asmutis-Silvia says. , who maintains that in the Gulf of San Lorenzo, in Canada, a similar measure of speed limitation is being proposed for large vessels such as the US.
30% of the world fleet consists of large vessels dedicated to the transport of containers, grains, oil, liquefied gas, cruise ships and freighters. But they are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions from all maritime transport, as highlighted by the IMO in its proposal on limiting speed.
Therefore, the IMO proposes that the limitations be focused on this group of large vessels. And that it "exempts other ships, including passenger ferries."
It also raises the possibility of leaving out of the speed limits to the vessels that transport fresh fruits "in specialized refrigerated vessels or in refrigerated containers in normal container ships". The IMO recalls that in 2015 there were "less than 800 refrigerated vessels" specialized in global maritime trade and that they only accounted for 1.6% of the COtwo expelled by this type of transport. That is why it is proposed that they are also exempt from any speed regulation.