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Maritime transport: IMO examines new environmental rules

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is meeting from Thursday with the objective of adopting measures aimed at drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the highly polluting maritime transport industry.

On the agenda of these discussions, which will last until June 17, rapid actions “aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of ships”, explains IMO in a press release, “as well as the main steps” to achieve this. .

“The stakes are high,” Damien Chevallier, French deputy permanent representative to the IMO, told AFP.

“Everything looks good on 99% of the text but a few figures in a table crystallize all the attention and still block” a possible agreement, he continues.

The UN specialized agency is committed to guaranteeing a 40% reduction in the carbon intensity of the industry it oversees by 2030 compared to 2008. It is up to it to approve concrete measures to achieve this.

The first measure concerns the establishment of specific energy efficiency criteria based on the type and size of existing vessels, comparable to that already in force for new vessels.

The second fixes the progress, in percentages, linearly or in stages, of the reduction in the carbon intensity of ships by December 31, 2030. It is this which is at the center of the debates.

– Discounted measures? –

The 76th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which is being held by videoconference from June 10 to 17, is the last chance to hope for an enactment of these measures on January 1, 2023.

If adopted, they would amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

Several environmental associations, including Seas at Risk, are already worried about low-cost compromises.

The MSC Orchestra cruise ship in Venice, June 5, 2021 (AFP / Archives – Miguel MEDINA)

The current state of discussions “shows that the IMO risks not aligning the maritime transport sector with the Paris Climate Agreement” signed in 2015 and which requires carbon neutrality by 2050, they said. written in a column at the end of May.

Maritime transport currently represents 2% to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Higher Institute of Maritime Economy (Isemar), or more than air transport.

– Sinews of war –

Measures to control the carbon intensity of ships are likely to occupy most of the debates and postpone “other equally important subjects”, notes Mr. Chevallier.

In particular the adoption of a work schedule for so-called medium and long-term measures (after 2030), new rules for ballast water (tanks used for navigation), reduction of plastics or even noise under -marine, denounced by animal rights activists.

The creation of a fund dedicated to research and development (R&D), supported by industrialists, is also on the agenda but with more chances of being discussed.

The main global association of maritime carriers, Bimco, interviewed by AFP, “looks forward to further deliberations on the R&D fund proposed by the industry.”

The container ship Marco arrives in the port of New York on May 20, 2021 (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP - SPENCER PLATT)

The container ship Marco arrives in the port of New York on May 20, 2021 (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP – SPENCER PLATT)

“The lack of clarity, due in part to the increasing levels of political risk and the resulting investment risk, leads to limiting investments in R&D for more green fuels intended for ships”, the Chamber warns. international maritime transport (ICS), which claims to represent 80% of the global merchant fleet, in a statement released Wednesday.

Several international maritime transport organizations had put forward the idea at the end of 2019 to create an innovation fund that would be financed by a fuel tax in order to carry out projects to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

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