Shipping lines hit a speed bump

As the debate about speed restrictions for vessels rages on, shipping consultancy Drewry has questioned its effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is meeting this week (13-17 May) in London to further explore methods to achieve its overall goal of decarbonising shipping, including looking at some proposals that will help move things along in the short-term, according to Drewry.

In an open letter to the IMO, nine environmental NGOs and 120 shipping companies (none of which are container lines) stated: “Our preference would be to set maximum annual average speeds for container ships, and maximum absolute speeds for the remaining ship types, which take account of minimum speed requirements. Such a regulation should be implemented as soon as possible and the obligation for compliance should be placed both on shipowners and operators, including charterers.”

Drewry points out that there was a time when vessel optimisation was achieved by simply deploying the biggest ships at full speed to minimise the number of vessels required. “It was a rare example of a win-win scenario for carrier and shipper, aligning carrier profitability with service quality in terms of fast transit times,” said Drewry.

“The global financial crisis and hugely inflated fuel prices however shattered those bedrock assumptions of how to operate liner services and ever since it has been much more cost effective to operate more ships at lower speeds.”

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