Environmental Law has always played a fundamental role within this industry and this is evidenced by the number of Conventions dealing with this subject starting from the Marpol Convention and continuing with a number of other conventions dealing with particular environmental aspects such as CLC, Bunkers Convention, Wreck Removal and the London Convention.
The Paris 2015 agreement
In 2015 during the 12 day United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris discussed what is now known as the Paris Agreement. The main goal of this historical agreement is that of limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” above preindustrial levels and “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius” above preindustrial levels through 2100. In order to enter into force the Agreement needs ratification by at least 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global greenhouse emissions. As at end of April 2016, 174 countries signed the agreement in New York and kickstarted the implementation into their legal systems.
Paris 2015 and Shipping
Paris 2015 excluded from its targets the shipping industry. Shipping represents approximately 90% of the world trade with an increase of 440% over the last half a century. The shipping industry is a globalised one operating through tankers and bulk carriers burning tons of oil every year. According to figures released by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) the shipping industry accounts for 3% of global CO2 emissions, a figure which approximately matches emissions of a country like Japan, the world’s fifth biggest polluter. Since vessels are able to carry considerable amounts of goods, they are considered to be environmentally friendly this when adopting a tonne-per-kilometre basis efficiency calculation method which, nevertheless, does not nullify the industry’s CO2 footprint. Moreover, one should also duly consider the harmful effect of harmful nanoparticles released by ships moored within city harbours.
What are the IMO and European authorities doing in this respect?
The IMO introduced a Measuring, Reporting and Verification System (“MRV”) according to which ship operators will be obliged to report annually their fuel consumption data for each ship on the basis of a methodology adopted by the ship’s energy efficiency management plan. Such information is collected by the IMO in an anonymous form. Such MRV system will apply to ships of 5000 GT or more as from March 2018 meaning that ship operators will start submitting information collected during 2019. The information collected will assist the IMO in adopting and implementing further measures to tackle the reduction of greenhouse emissions.
What about the European Union?
The European Union introduced an MRV scheme through Regulation 2015/757 on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport. This will come into force as from 1st January 2018 onwards. The EU MRV Regulation will apply to operators of ships above 5,000 gross tonnage, and will require them to:
1. Monitor and report the verified amount of CO2 emitted on all voyages to, from and between EU ports and also when in an EU port; and
2. Submit to the Commission an emissions report containing externally verified annual aggregated data.
Contrary to the IMO scheme and in an attempt to determine a ship’s average energy efficiency, the EU scheme will additionally require operators to monitor and annually report additional parameters, such as distance, time at sea and cargo carried, to enable the determination of a ship’s average energy efficiency. Annual emissions reports submitted by operators will be made publicly available without being anonymised.
What’s happening now
Ship operators sailing to, from and between EU ports have already started upgrading onboard IT measurement instruments and IT systems in order to accurately collect and process the necessary data for compliance with the EU MRV Regulation.
Operators of ships interested in international voyages will instead be caught by the IMO scheme from 2019 onwards.
What is next?
During the 70th MEPC the IMO acknowledged the importance of having a roadmap (covering the period 2017 to 2023) for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy in relation to the reduction of green house gas emissions from ships. Such IMO strategy is set to be adopted at MEPC 72 (to be held in spring 2018) prior to the start of data collection under the EU MRV system commencing in 2019. During this year’s MEPC a draft of the initial strategy was outlined. Following the collection and analysis of 2019 data in autumn 2020 the strategy will be reviewed in both 2021 and 2022. In spring 2023 during the 80th MEPC the IMO will finalise the revised strategy aiming at including and implementing the schedule for the measures identified in it.
The initiative by both the IMO and EU is to be praised as both organizations are trying to fill the gap left on a worldwide level by Paris 2015.
The main issue here is, once again, the overlapping of functions between the IMO and the EU. In fact, when it comes to the measuring of CO2 emissions, the EU Commission acknowledged that the data to be reported under the EU MRV Regulation overlaps with the narrower elements required by the IMO reporting scheme. Therefore for voyages to, from and between EU ports, from 2019 onwards, ship operators will be obliged to report the same emissions data under two different schemes. In this regard the EU is also committed to propose amendments in order to align the EU scheme with the IMO’s.
CO2 emissions-fighting initiatives have once again highlighted the leading role of the IMO within such industry, in particular on environmental matters; on the other hand, it also evidenced the growing participation of the EU within the maritime sector. However, such initiative, as seen above, clearly lacks in coordination with the IMO which, remains the principal regulator on maritime matters on a global scale. The IMO has a wealth of experience and knowledge built over decades of activity while the EU is a young player in such field but with a huge determination and impetus in reaching its goals. This lack of coordination may be attributed to the fact that the EU enjoys only an observatory role within the IMO (contrary to each of its member states). One cannot but hope for a deeper communication and coordination between these organizations, at a preliminary stage, perhaps through the attribution of a more tangible role of the EU within the IMO. In this respect single EU member states, in particular those with strong maritime interests, should play a key role in mediating a progressive active role of the EU in this respect.