Greener shipping - hot air, or...?
24th September 2013 14:50 GMT

During the London international Shipping Week the UK branch of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association held a grand debate on ‘This House believes that the demands for ever-greener shipping are so much hot air’

The chair of the Debate John Davis, WISTA-UK Ambassador, decided that Michael Grey and I would be defending the motion that all the column inches written or all the verbal discussions about greener shipping were just a lot of talk or hot air if you prefer. Michael Grey eloquently interpreted ‘hot air’ as “implying that many of the demands for Greener shipping, are indeed hot air – as Shakespeare put it eloquently - all sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

But given my association with matters ‘green’ how did I support the motion? My key arguments were that if we write column inches or talk to kingdom come about ‘greener shipping’ but only mean ‘greener ships’ we are missing the point of who in addition influences the decision on ‘greener shipping’. All players have a responsibility and that includes us as consumers.

Who is involved and who provides the incentive - lest we forget
Any serious discussion would have a broader focus than just greener ‘hardware’ e.g. the ship, the engines, the hull. To achieve ‘greener shipping’ we need to influence all the actors who supply us with our goods including ship owners.

We need to also tackle and challenge the behaviour of the majority of charterers, who in the main pick the cheapest ship that is legally compliant. I was interested to hear at the Fathom Ship Efficiency conference on 10 September from the Low Carbon Shipping project that only about 8% of charterers in the bulker trade have paid more for an energy efficient vessel. That is no incentive for ship owners to pay for ‘greener’ ships.

Additionally we also need to tackle and challenge what large manufactures choose to do in terms of shipping their goods - a recent London Business School (LBS) survey found that 63% of CEOs in the consumer goods industry thought sustainability issues were very important to their future success with another 36 % believing it was important. I appreciate that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to shipping a single TV or pair of trainers is miniscule in comparison to the total GHG emissions associated with its manufacturing and use. Just like the cost of transportation of the TV screen or pair of trainers is miniscule in comparison to the cost of the final products. But the fact that the GHG emissions for the transportation element is non-material means there is a large gap between the consumer goods industry CEO’s statement on sustainability and the reality of the behaviour of their companies when it comes to picking a ship to transport their goods. The mantra then is ‘ship at best time and cheapest for us’. Unfortunately this means there is no incentive for ship owners to pay for ‘greener’ ships.

Additionally we also need to tackle and challenge ports logistics. It still takes too long after a ship has unloaded to get goods out to the consumer. There was another lovely quote at the Fathom Ship Efficiency conference of ‘ports are very keen to talk about the largest ship they can handle but are less focused on moving the goods’. I recognise that some ports have innovative green schemes for ships. But that is not the same as moving goods speedily. Ships sometimes have to make up the gap in expectation between how long it takes logistics to move goods and consumers’ expectations. Ships therefore at times have to speed up to make up time lost elsewhere.

Regulation would be holistic
In my argument above I deal with the users and providers of shipping services but the other actors also played in part in my defence that ‘green shipping is so much hot air’. Because if we are serious about ‘greener shipping’ we would have serious discussions about moving from ‘end of pipe’ regulations to holistic goal based environmental regulations. Goal based environmental regulations would take account of the complexity and inter-linkage in the ecosystems we live in. This would avoid trading one problem in the ecosystem for another.

Hopefully with IMO goal based environmental regulation Port states would no longer see the need to develop separate regulations from that developed at IMO. Separate and additional regulations add substantially to complexity and to the disincentive to buy ‘green ships’.

Funding for greener hardware would be more easily available
Lest we forget, banks and equity finance also has a role to play if we are serious about ‘greener shipping’. If we want greener ships we are going to have to find a way of supporting (commercially) ‘greener ships’. Sustainable Shipping Initiative are leading the development but they have, if verbal comments are to be believed, found it a challenge. Bank are prepared to lend using the asset and income projections as guarantee for any type of projects but they need the asset as a guarantee and do not lend on better terms for environmental projects. This again highlights the contradiction between behaviour driven by commercial and regulatory demands with the finding in that LBS survey on sustainability where 68% of banking CEOs thought it was very important.

So what about the owner, ship yards and all the other players?
I started out by stating that all players have a responsibility and that includes us as consumers. I do not wish to here enter into the debate what is and how do we determine if a ship is ‘greener’. Nor do I want to talk about ship owner incomes and the fact that the industry is not made up of a small number of very large ship owners. Nor do I want to talk about the costs of dealing with the current regulatory requirements from IMO related to environmental matters. That does not mean those issues are not also important.

I am looking forward to more column inches and verbal discussions covering how we incentivise all the actors towards the common goal of ‘greener shipping’

Anne-Marie Warris,
24th September 2013 14:50 GMT

Comments on this Blog
Robert Visser
26th September 2013
Greener shipping, we all can start with the documentation.
Why in this age still buying hardcopy booksworks when it al can be digital ? For that I have designed a perfect solution, which is already in use on a lot of bunkerbarges in the port of Rotterdam. It is also cheaper because there is no more need for a printing house, no transport costs and within a few minutes on board of the delevering barge all over the world. So u saves money and time.
Start green ? save trees !!
It sounds as a little commercial, yes.. maybe it is. But one which can start "greener" bunkering !

Kind regards,
R. Visser. (bunkerforms)
Heinz Otto
28th September 2013
Thank you, Dr. Anne-Marie Warris, without the inclusion of wind power, hot "air is" the correct description for all "green shipping" activities until now, , because all are still based on the oil.
Please continue the discussion in order to achieve a truly green shipping. Please bring the ship owners, charterers and logistics companies together, sitting arouind one table.
The IPCC will monitor your discussion carefully, if there's a really green shipping movement occurs within the IMO.
As you know, I am a "nobody" in the global maritime business'm, I'm just an observer of the problem, such as anny shipping can work with less oil.
And since we have lost already 50 years, see: ( History of Wilhelm Prölss-scroll a Little bit down)
In Warsaw, an opportunity will be very soon at COP 19, to end this 50 years lost time:
Support you the concepts of a modern cargo sailing ships, just as it started: and and
best greetings
Heinz Otto -,
Caroline Clarke
9th October 2013
Stakeholder engagement, this viewed as players, international tackle to tackle points - the carriers equipment/asset as 'back of house; - the shipper/consignee use phase as 'front of house' - to illuminate micro further the provider and the user as common but differentiated responsibilities. Perhaps to regard greater attention to participants whose conduct demonstrates an examplar on attendances - a foil to demonstrate industry stewardship one product system at a time. Thank you for sharing kind regards Caroline
Caroline Clarke
9th October 2013
Shipper / Consignee Incoterms merited as to distinguish.
Kind regards
Maurits Prinssen - Port of Rotterdam Authority
14th October 2013
Shipowners already invested in Greening may apply for discount on port dues. Ships with a score of 31 or more in the receive apprx. 5% discount in the port of Rotterdam.
Already more than 2000 vessels have an ESI certificate.
Kind Regards,
murli nagrani
8th February 2014
thank you for this post on greener shipping.
panliner shipping llp

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