Commercial and regulatory changes are fuelling improvements in ship emissions. In this April 2015, BC Shipping News Fuelling Improvements in Ship Emissions Darryl Anderson explores global and local trends and impacts. It will also explore the regulatory framework and commercial environment to understand the reasons for the progress made to date and identify lessons learned.

Vessel Emissions in a Global Context

The International Chamber of Shipping notes in a recent report Shipping, World Trade and the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (prepared for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations) that shipping is the only industrial sector already covered by a binding global agreement to reduce its CO2emissions through technical and operational measures agreed – with full industry support – by its global regulator, the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The fundamental question to ask is whether this has resulted in any positive outcome at either the global or local level.

The standard of ratification and enforcement of IMO environmental conventions is very high in comparison to international regulations applying to many land-based industries. The IMO’s and industry commitment to environmental sustainability has not only been effective in significantly reducing oil spills but also the quantity of CO2 emissions in the face of an increased volume of international trade. The Third IMO GHG Study 2014 found that on a global basis international shipping represented 2.2% of world CO2 emissions in 2012 compared to 2.8% in 2007. The sector emitted 796 million tonnes of COin 2012 and 885 tonnes of CO2 in 2007.

The IMO regulations allow nation states to create areas for enhanced environmental protection. In 2013, the North American Emission Control Area (NA-ECA) rules were adopted under Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The NA-ECA entered into force on August 1, 2012, and set a 1% limit on the sulphur content of the marine fuel, followed by a 0.1% limit effective January 1, 2015. This compares to other non-emission control areas around the world where maritime fuel containers 3.5 percent sulphur.

Fuelling Improvements in Ship Emissions in British Columbia Ports

While the global results of the shipping industry are indeed positive, many readers will no doubt be interested in knowing what impact international shipping’s regulatory regime has had at the local level.

Under the BC Environmental Management Act, Metro Vancouver has been delegated authority to manage air quality within the Metro Vancouver region. This civic responsibility is a unique regulatory characteristic within the Canadian context and as such Metro Vancouver officials have a vantage point and perspective of both the International Maritime Organization regulations and local initiatives that have contributed to significantly reduced emissions.

Mr. Roger Quan
Director, Air Quality and Climate Change for Metro Vancouver’s observed that the October 2014 Integrated Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Management Plan – Progress Report documented the very significant reductions in the pattern of marine emissions that have occurred for sulphur dioxide, diesel particulate matter, fine particulate matters: they have decreased 95 percent, 71 percent, and 28 percent respectively. However, there has been a 10% increase in nitrogen dioxide. This growth will be mitigated over time with the implementation of the North American Emission Control Area, which will result in steady improvements in NO2 emissions from marine vessels by 2030.

Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) recognized the challenges ship owners and the maritime industry faced in meeting the emissions reduction targets. In 2007 PMV created the innovative Blue Circle Award for the EcoAction Program for Shipping. The program offers a financial incentive for shipping lines that reduce emissions of their ocean-going vessels. The Blue Circle Awards honour gold, silver or bronze ratings based on efforts to reduce air emissions, depending on the quality of fuel used and overall emission reductions.Vessel operators can apply for the program at each call or provide an annual declaration for their vessels. By 2013, sixteen shipping lines had received a Blue Circle Award: ten from the container, three from the cruise, two from the general cargo and one from the bulk and break-bulk sectors. Ms. Julia Ren, Strategic Communications Advisor for Port Metro Vancouver stated, “While we do not have the final list of recipients for 2014 Blue Circle Award yet, our data does show that the uptake of the program has remained strong and consistent in 2014.”

Additional initiatives included the Truck License System for the drayage sector in 2008 and the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy was updated in 2013. A brand new program PMV just launched in 2015 is their Non- Diesel Emissions (NRDE) Program. It is part of industry ongoing effort to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions associated with non-road equipment and cargo-handling equipment operating within Port Metro Vancouver’s jurisdiction.

On a regional basis, Roger Quan of Metro Vancouver contributes the work of the BC Marine Vessel Air Quality Workgroup Co-chaired by the Chamber of Shipping and Environment Canada for the significant progress made over the last decade. This workgroup facilitates the practical exchange of information and development of coordinated and collaborative policies, programs and actions for air emission inventories related to vessels operating on the coast of British Columbia.

While the commercial environment remains choppy what it is clear that the IMO has been effective both globally and locally in reducing CO2emissions from all sectors of the international shipping industry.