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Connecticut Maritime Association (CMA) Shipping 2010

CMA Shipping 2010

March 22, 2010

Video message recorded by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

“IMO’s role in addressing GHG reductions from shipping”

22 March 2010
Stamford, Connecticut, United States of America


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen; it is a pleasure for me to participate in the CMA 2010 conference, albeit remotely. In “real life” I addressed the opening of the 60th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization at its London Headquarters this morning – which makes the theme that the organizers of this event have asked me to speak about, namely “IMO’s role in addressing GHG reductions from shipping”, particularly pertinent. For it is through the MEPC that IMO’s work in this area has been focused. Indeed, at this week’s session, we expect, as ever, that important progress will be made towards the ultimate objective: a coherent and comprehensive regulatory framework to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

As the specialized agency of the United Nations with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping, as well as the prevention of pollution by ships, IMO has a responsibility towards the world community and a clear mandate to develop and adopt such a framework in the shortest possible timeframe.

Although often thought of as a relatively new initiative, in fact, work on prevention of air pollution and the control of GHG emissions from ships engaged in international trade started within IMO as long ago as the late 1980s. The first step was the phasing-out of ozone depleting substances, both as refrigerant gases and in fire-fighting systems.

More recently, the Organization’s work on this issue has been guided by a resolution of our Assembly on “IMO Policies and Practices Related to the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships”, which was adopted in December 2003. This resolution urged the MEPC to identify and develop the mechanisms needed to achieve limitation or reduction of GHG emissions from international shipping, and called for the Committee to develop a work plan, with a timetable, to that effect – a plan which was eventually adopted in October 2006. Since then, a significant amount of work has been carried out, in accordance with the agreed schedule, and a great deal of real progress has been made.

In July 2009, the MEPC agreed to a package of technical and operational measures to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping, aimed at improving the energy efficiency of new ships through better design and propulsion technologies, and of all ships – new and existing – primarily through improved operational practices. When fully implemented, these measures will result in significant reductions of GHG emissions from ships.

The agreed measures were intended for voluntary application until the Committee's current session during which important discussions will take place on the proposed measures’ scope of application and enactment, as the Committee will consider making them mandatory under MARPOL Annex VI.

They include an Energy Efficiency Design Index, which will set a minimum requirement for the energy efficiency of new ships and thus stimulate innovation and technical development of all elements influencing the fuel efficiency of a ship. The index would cover the main segments of the world fleet (tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, gas carriers, general cargo ships and so on) representing the largest emitters, although, without additional incentives, it may take some 20 years to reach the required level of coverage in the world fleet, if the usual economic life of ships is taken into account. The reduction levels for different segments of the world merchant fleet – by type and size – will be one of the key topics due for consideration by the MEPC this week as it addresses the mandatory application of the index for new ships, from a date to be decided.

Another part of the package is the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for new and existing ships, which incorporates best practices for fuel-efficient ship operation, as well as guidelines for the use of an Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator for new and existing ships. This indicator enables operators to measure the fuel efficiency of a ship in operation and to gauge the effect of any changes in operation, such as improved voyage planning or more frequent propeller cleaning, or the introduction of technical measures such as waste heat recovery systems or a new, more efficient propeller. The Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan will assist the shipping industry in achieving these potential energy savings.

While this package of technical and operational measures is a very important step in ensuring that the shipping industry has the necessary mechanisms to enable it to reduce its GHG emissions, IMO has, nevertheless, recognized that these measures alone would not be sufficient to reduce the amount of GHG emissions from international shipping to a satisfactory level, particularly in view of the long-term growth projections for world trade. Market-based mechanisms have, therefore, also been considered by the Committee, in line with its GHG work plan. A market-based mechanism is meant to serve two main purposes: the off-setting of growing ship emissions, and providing a fiscal incentive for the maritime industry to invest in more fuel-efficient ships and technologies and to operate ships in a more energy-efficient manner.

The MEPC, having previously agreed that a market-based instrument should form part of any comprehensive package of measures for the regulation of GHG emissions from international shipping, has further agreed that any regulatory GHG regime applied to international shipping should be developed and enacted by IMO as the sole competent international organization assigned the global mandate to regulate all aspects of international shipping.  As shipping is a global industry and ships are competing in a single global market, it must be regulated at the global level to be environmentally effective and to maintain a level playing field for all ships, irrespective of flag or ownership.

An in-depth discussion on market-based measures was held last July, when an ad hoc work plan, culminating in 2011, was agreed. It is interesting to note that there was a general preference at the MEPC for the greater part of any funds generated by a market-based instrument under the auspices of IMO to be used for climate change purposes in developing countries, whether through existing or new funding mechanisms under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or other international organizations. 

Continued work on the market-based instruments will be one of the issues on the Committee’s agenda this week. To follow on from the in-depth discussion at its last session, the Committee will not focus on choosing a single proposal but on the methodology and criteria that will determine how the different proposals submitted will be analyzed. Following this week’s debate at the MEPC, a feasibility study and impact assessment will be undertaken intersessionally, enabling the Committee, when it meets again in September/October, to make informed decisions on which market-based measure it wishes to evaluate further and to identify elements that could be included in such a measure.

As you will doubtless be aware, our work on this hugely important topic was brought to the attention of last December’s Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the outcome of which left me with mixed feelings: with concern, that the aim of a legally-binding instrument had not, as expected, been achieved; with measured satisfaction, that a step in the right direction had been taken through the Accord tabled at the end of the deliberations; and with hope that, following new rounds of consultations, the required consensus on action to address climate change and global warming would be reached at the Conference scheduled to take place in Mexico at the end of this year.

The international maritime community stands ready to build on the momentum created in Copenhagen by contributing further to the attainment of the objectives set through IMO’s GHG work plan, in particular the establishment of a comprehensive regulatory regime aimed at real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from ships, at the same time contributing, through a market-based instrument, towards the wider efforts to combat climate change in developing countries.  We have already made good progress in our delivery of the agreed work plan and can now move forward to conclude it.

Slowing – and reversing – climate change is the defining challenge of our age and the world is looking to the United Nations system as a whole to provide the appropriate education, information, guidance and, ultimately, action. IMO has a key role to play in what must, of necessity, be a concerted effort.


Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you every success in your deliberations and I thank you.