Rotterdam - Emission limits for ships increasingly attract the ire of shipowners, particularly the one kicking in in 2015 in the SECA (Sulphur Emission Controlled Areas: 0,1% sulphur in fumes) areas of the North Sea and the Baltic. According to figures given at Rotterdam’s Mareforum event, held the day before yesterday as part of Europort Expo, estimated global costs of refitting would total 50 billion Euros. Besides the main contention of shipowners, that refined hydrocarbon fuels are too expensive and that production wouldn’t keep up with demand, the trade association points to the fact that banks (Abn Amro was in attendance) have come to count on just this type of financing. Shipowners’ relations with the EU have hardened as a consequence, the latter accusing the former of creating an over-regulated (“the most regulated in the world” says the president of Dutch shipowners, Tineke Netelembos) sector, which, even so, misses its own targets. While not surprising that shipowners and industry experts would agree on this point, the contention that sulphur oxide has its own usefulness, expressed by George Gratsos, head of the Greek Shipowners’ Association, is remarkable.
Can you explain why?
“It’s a fact: we all admit that the protection of the environment and that our number one goal should be the reduction of global warming. The trouble is that some environmental laws have the opposite effect. I’m speaking in particular of sulphur oxide emissions”.
It’s a subject of some contention.
“This oxide is terrible for health but life-span is its weak point: it’s inactive within two days. I agree with creating ECA zones ( same as Seca but includes coastal US, Ed.,) but a lot less with the idea of extending these limits globally. There are studies that show how sulphur oxides in the ocean lower global warming”.
What is your source?
“Take for example the report of the UK Weather Centre on last week’s hurricanes recorded in Northern Europe and on the American Atlantic coast. It stressed how, during these violent storms, there was no presence of sulphur oxides in the middle of the Atlantic, thereby putting in direct connection the two phenomena”.
This is according to the UK Weather Bureau.
“I am just quoting some published scientific research, available to anyone, in which is specifically mentioned the absence of sulphur oxides over oceans. To sum it up: in view of studies with opposing conclusions we should at least take the time to verify everything”.
Shipowners today point the finger at a set of regulations not very in tune with reality.
“It’s clear that businesses go forward only as long as it’s lucrative. For us this is magnified, what with cost of running ships and this issue of emissions. One’s financial gains are tied with shipping goods, however whenever business is slow or fuel price rises, one is forced to slow down. Conversely, as conditions improve, with cheaper fuel and strong demand, you speed up in order to work more. These two principles should be enough to self-regulate the industry”.
Do you have any evidence for this ?
“I remember how in 1980 we had very high priced fuel due to the second oil crisis. Despite a lack of regulations and without being constrained, Burmeister & Wain shipyards in Copenhagen built extremely fuel efficient ships that burnt 30% less fuel than other ships”.
Paradoxically, just the kind of targets we are looking at today.
“It just happened, that’s all, without any regulation, because the cost of fuel was too high and there was a need to find another solution to go forward. The market is itself the best regulator,. The only reason ships in the past resumed burning more fuel is that the price went down”.