2013: views on new environmental regulations

The start of 2013 has been anxiously awaited, both by those hoping that the world wouldn’t end in December 2012 and those contemplating the twin set of environmental…

The start of 2013 has been anxiously awaited, both by those hoping that the world wouldn’t end in December 2012 and those contemplating the twin set of environmental regulations that have been enforced by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) since 1st January.

This will be a double-boost to improving efficiencies across the shipping industry by changing the way vessels are designed and operated through the energy efficiency design index (EEDI) and the ship energy efficiency management plan (SEEMP). The gauntlet has been laid down to naval architects, newbuild managers, shipyards, ship owners and operators alike to change their business-as-usual approach, meet new targets and initiate new processes to improve the environmental credentials of the shipping industry.

The IMO has recognised that the efficiency of a vessel begins in the design process and so the EEDI of vessels – a benchmarking index for efficiency in design – will have to be verifiably met by all newbuild vessels designed from this month. The parameters for this design will be made more stringent and the vessels more efficient, leading up to 2025 when it is expected that vessels will be 10-30% more efficient based on design alone – and that is just the beginning.

In addition to this standard for design, from January 2013 all vessels are now required to begin implementing a categorical plan for the day-to-day management of their efficiency and to set targets for its improvement. The owner or operator of the vessel, rather than the IMO sets these targets and while this could lead to a lax interpretation of this regulation by some, it is nevertheless an opportunity to think about where they could be making savings, not only environmentally but also financially.

Like slow steaming, an effective SEEMP does have benefits for the environment, but the bottom line is that if a vessel operates more efficiently, it will burn less expensive fuel and consequently save money. It is the money-saving aspect in these hard financial times for shipping, rather than the environmental factor, that has driven owners to reduce the speeds of their vessels and, most recently in Maersk’s case, begin to modify them to operate better at these speeds. It is only logical that this will also become the driving force behind effective SEEMPs once owners and operators start to witness the impact of cutting their fuel spend even by 1%.

This is the future of the shipping industry – efficiently designed vessels, operated to achieve the best possible performance out of the fuel they burn – environmental improvements with commercial benefits. And whilst this is only the element that is mandated by the IMO, technologies that can be retrofitted to improve efficiency, alternative fuels and operational measures such as virtual arrival are becoming more available and more viable every day. As we look forward to what lies ahead in 2013, we can see that although there may be dark clouds overhead now, there is a glimmer of light and that light might just be green.