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World Maritime Day: Better Shipping for a Better Future. But What About the Present?

The topic of a better future for the shipping industry correlates with the introduction of the new regulations which have been in the center of a heated dispute among ship owners and operators as they come to terms with the reality.

The mission of the IMO, which celebrates 70 years since its establishment, is to create a level-playing field for the industry stakeholders by regulating and enforcing rules on various segments of shipping, the aim being to “promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.”

However, as explained by the organization’s Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, this means that things worth doing are often an arduous and a lengthy endeavor.

What about the present?

IMO has set out on an ambitious campaign to cut down the industry’s emissions, in line with the global initiative to combat climate change and its impact under the Paris Agreement.

As commendable as that may be, the industry has been faced with numerous uncertainties when it comes to the ways of meeting the new regulations taking into account the state of play in the market and, what many see as, the lack of adequate solutions to become compliant.

The Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC), the impending 0.5 pct sulphur cap on marine fuel entering into force on January 1, 2020 as well as cutting of the industry’s Green House Gas (GHG) footprint by 50 percent by 2050, have caused numerous headaches for shipowners who feel alone in the implementation process.

What is more, the sentiment among owners voiced at this year’s trade fairs, Posidonia and SMM, is that even when compliant technological, or other types of solutions, are installed or implemented on board ships, there are still various challenges to be faced.

Failures and operational problems of BWM systems, as well as lack of proper training of crew members to maintain them once installed remains among the key issues perplexing owners.

A detailed preparation process for the installation is key, according to Alfa Laval.

On the other hand, 2020 sulphur cap is knocking on the door, and ship owners need to decide quickly how to comply and how to finance their plans.

It appears that every solution on the table has a downside: scrubbers with their increasing popularity and uptake have been deemed a short-term solution, while LNG and marine gas oil are more expensive than high sulfur fuel oil.

Furthermore, the industry agrees that the ambitious CO2 reduction targets for the year 2050 can only be delivered with the global rollout of zero CO2 fuels and propulsion systems.

And finally, there is the question about the availability of the compliant fuels, which, even if adequate, needs to be reported and well known to owners. Fears have also been raised that ships will experience numerous navigational problems or breakdowns due to the poor quality of bunkers being produced ahead of the 2020 sulphur cap.

Overall, as the industry takes a moment to celebrate the World Maritime Day, one thing is certain. The time has come for owners to make difficult decisions that are likely to cost them heavily.

Nevertheless, as industry veterans always say: Disruption is good for the industry. It demands for ingenuity and innovative thinking. We must remain hopeful that the industry will deliver this time as well.

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