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Web Alert: France's proposed speed limit for ships

17 April 2019

French proposals submitted to the IMO's MEPC at the end of last month call for a two-step approach of short-term measures to cut GHG emissions in shipping.

They include regulating ship speeds on a sector by sector basis, followed by the adoption of globally applicable annual emissions caps based on each ship’s output.

Loadstar reported the following views have been expressed: 

It is understood that Maersk has objected to the proposals, while a spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd told The Loadstar additional speed reductions 'would not be a good solution'. He said: 'All container shipping lines voluntarily reduced speed a few years ago, leading to significant reductions in fuel burn, which slowed down the speed of the entire supply chain'.

'We have invested many millions to technologically optimise ships accordingly, and we believe additional speed reductions are not in the interest of our customers. [These measures] would have a significant effect on efficiency and supply chain speed, and we would additionally need to invest again into optimising ships for lower speed.'

As a whole, the industry is expecting to pay an additional $60bn annually following the implementation of the low-sulphur cap from 1 Jan 2020. Indeed, the 2M Alliance has announced that transit times on China-Felixstowe services would be increased from 39 to 45 days, and Maersk says it intends to be carbon-free by 2050, far beyond the 50% deduction the IMO is targeting.

In its proposals, the French specified that the plan 'cannot apply to all ship type categories indifferently; in this respect, four large sets of ships can be distinguished based on the recent experience of slow-steaming'. Among the four groups listed were ships that had not only reduced their speeds but continued to operate at lower speeds, with it specifying 'containerships'.

The aim is to encourage vessels to run at a speed at which they would achieve maximum efficency in order to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. France supports that in order to achieve climate goals set out in the Paris agreement, shipping needs to act faster than the goals set by the IMO. At this stage it is not clear by how much ships should slow down and they are currently seeking discussion with IMO member states on the matter.