Environmental & Climate Protection – on the right track

Like no other industry in the world, shipping has managed to introduce numerous internationally valid and effective measures to protect the environment since the 1950s. At the heart of maritime environmental protection are the MARPOL regulations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which regulate the handling of oil, chemicals, waste, and air emissions. Of the 51 treaty instruments for the regulation of international shipping IMO has adopted so far, 21 are directly environment related.

Together with the international umbrella organization ICS, the VDR is intensively involved in discussions at the IMO aimed at designing the regulations to be viable in both ecological and economic terms. The goal in this has always been to keep the maritime environment intact, to protect people and the environment from damage, and to pass on to future generations a planet that is as unscathed as possible. 

In addition to climate protection and following the introduction of stricter limits on sulphur emissions (‘low sulphur’), one of the current challenges is the “green” recycling of ships. The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships already provides a far-reaching framework for better social and environmental practices in recycling yards. Nevertheless, a sizeable number of governments still need to be convinced of the urgent need to ratify the convention.

The main focus of German shipping, however, is on decarbonising maritime transport and achieving the climate targets set by the IMO. By 2050, these envision a gradual reduction of CO2 emissions of at least 50 percent compared to the 2008 level. Together with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the German Shipowners’ Association goes one step further and aims for shipping to reach a net-zero target and be climate-neutral already by 2050. To enable shipping to reach this target, the use and testing of alternative marine fuels, such as E-Fuels, ammonia and hydrogen needs to be accelerated and scaled up. 

The importance of shipping to decarbonise is further underlined by the European Commission’s concept for the so-called European Green Deal published in December 2019, calling for Europe to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. For shipping, the planned inclusion of shipping in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the so-called FuelEU Maritime initiative will play a central role in these efforts.

With regard to the introduction of regional measures for shipping it has to be kept in mind that the vast majority of ships trade internationally between continents and – similarly to their emissions – are usually outside national or regional borders. The shipping industry is therefore among the greatest supporters of the IMO and its rules and regulations, as the efficiency of this global industry is vitally dependent on uniform global rules. This is especially true for any measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from ships.