New wave of environmental regulation to slam chemical shipping

10 March 2010 20:51  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS news) --Owners and operators of chemical tankers are bracing themselves for a new wave of expensive environmental regulation, but it is far from clear which organisations will have responsibility for devising and enforcing the rules, a shipping conference panel said on Wednesday.

Panel speakers at Navigate's Chemical and Product Tankers conference agreed that ship owners would face sharply higher costs as they strived to comply with new rules on energy efficiency and curtailing or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

The United Nations (UN) conference on climate change in Copenhagen last year collapsed before any decisions about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from shipping had been made, said Sveinung Oftedal, a senior adviser to the Norwegian environment ministry.

Oftedal said there had been no formal agreement in Copenhagen to a proposal inviting the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to continue to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

"Discussions, yes. Results, no," Oftedal said.

Even without political agreement between UN member states on steps to combat shipping-related climate change, the IMO was already considering draft regulations for the shipping industry on emissions, including a market-based mechanism for slowing their rate of growth, Oftedal said.

Delegates at the Navigate conference were left to understand that chemical tanker owners might prefer rules implemented through the IMO rather than through non-specific UN climate change agreements.

An international agreement requiring minimum standards of energy efficiency in the design of new ships could be adopted later this year, said Christian Breinholt of the Danish Maritime Authority. The principle under discussion is that the ships of the future will be more efficient than the average ships of the past.

Yannis Calogeras, a Bureau Veritas product manager, said it was likely that new rules would be introduced to govern how existing vessels should be operated. Just-in-time berthing, slow steaming to save on fuel, and voyage planning and routing might all be encouraged by new international rules. Changes in propeller design and hull coatings might also be required.

The sulphur content of marine fuels is already limited by legislation in some countries and regions, and the limits are set to become progressively more restrictive on a global level by 2020 or 2025 by international agreement. Eddy Van Bouwel, representing the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, said that oil refiners would face difficult decisions about refinery configurations as fuel content mandates reshaped the market.

"In all cases, at least part of current marine fuel supply will be redirected to other markets," Van Bouwel said. He added that producing marine fuels to less-polluting specifications would have the perverse effect of increasing energy consumption and CO2 emissions from refineries.

Pollution abatement technologies, including exhaust gas scrubbing, may be needed to supplement refiners' efforts to improve marine fuel quality.

Chris Leigh-Jones, who works for the scrubber provider Hamworthy Krystallon, said regulations on tanker emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants would become increasingly onerous and expensive. "It's a big bill and it's coming," he said. Many companies have developed SO2 scrubbing technology, which often uses seawater to flush pollutants from vessel exhaust fumes.

A ballast water management system may soon be required under a pending IMO convention, ABS’s (American Bureau of Shipping) Robert Spencer told delegates. The cost of installing such a system on an existing chemical tanker could reach $300,000 (€222,000), not including operating costs, and as much as $2m for a crude oil carrier.

Captain Ian Finley, who chaired the conference, said the proposed rules on ballast water management were "what we all know is the convention from Hell".

Although the prospect of better fuel efficiency for chemical tankers in future may relieve ship owners and operators, many at the conference concluded that any benefit would be outweighed by additional costs connected to environmental compliance.

($1 = €0.74)

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By: James Mills
+44 208 652 3214

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