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Reducing ship speeds by 10-15% could reduce maritime emissions by 20-30%

Cariou, a researcher & professor at KEDGE Business School and a specialist in maritime and port economy suggests that decreasing ship’s speed seems to be the best short-term answer to meeting the initial deadline of 2030 for cutting.

, ET Bureau|
Dec 12, 2019, 07.46 PM IST
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Ship Speed
The issue now is raw materials (oil, iron ore, coal, grains, etc.) which account for around 30-40% of maritime transport emissions and which, unlike container transport chains, have not seen any reductions in levels of CO2.
Reducing ship speeds by 10-15% could effectively reduce maritime emissions by around 20-30% and help meet the International Maritime Organization’s target of halving emissions by 2050, maritime specialist Pierre Cariou has suggested.

Cariou, a researcher & professor at KEDGE Business School and a specialist in maritime and port economy suggests that decreasing ship’s speed seems to be the best short-term answer to meeting the initial deadline of 2030 for cutting.

These days, there are more than 50,000 boats travelling our seas and oceans, with almost 85% of world trade’s total volume as cargo. They are responsible for around 3% of all greenhouse gases emitted: a relatively low percentage of total emissions.

However, given the rate at which international trade is growing, the OECD is forecasting a 23% increase in shipping emissions by 2035. In a bid to limit this increase, in April 2018 the International Maritime Organization announced a plan to halve emissions by 2050. One of the several solutions that are being explored is decreasing ship speeds, which seems to be the best short-term answer to meeting an initial deadline of 2030.

Cariou suggests, reducing speeds from 13 (24 kmph) to 11 (20 kmph) knots for oil tankers and dry bulk carriers from 17 (31 kmph) to 15 (~28 kmph) knots for container ships would effectively reduce emissions by around 20-30%.

This, however, is expected to have a limited impact on world trade. The container transport industry – which transports the majority of products manufactured in Asia to main consumer regions around the world – has largely committed to the idea of cutting ship speeds.

In 10 years, transit times have increased by several days without any cost increases or stock shortages. This demonstrates that maritime transport industry is capable of incorporating this new speed factor into logistics chains.

The issue now is raw materials (oil, iron ore, coal, grains, etc.) which account for around 30-40% of maritime transport emissions and which, unlike container transport chains, have not seen any reductions in levels of CO2.

Reducing speeds by 10% mean an extra 5-10 days of shipping time is required to import oil from the Persian Gulf, or iron ore or coal from Australia, Brazil, or South Africa.

Additional operational overheads relating to increased journey times can be estimated to stand at around $0.15 per barrel of oil, and €1 per tonne of iron ore or coal. In reality, this extra cost is offset by the fuel savings achieved by travelling at slower speeds, given that fuel accounts for over half the total cost of maritime transport.

The potential impact is, therefore, more noticeable in the additional costs of goods being stuck at sea and increased storage requirements. However, the low unit value of raw materials and the existence of sufficient storage facilities in Europe suggests that the impact of slowing ships down on the world economy and final consumers would be just as limited in this industry as in container transportation. Global supply chains will also adapt to these new arrangements with considerable speed.
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