Hege and Hemmings in panel

In Conversation with Bill Hemmings and Hege Økland

5 min read

11 Sep 2019


Lara McCoy



5 min read

11 Sep 2019


Lara McCoy



The shipping industry has lagged behind others in addressing the issue of emissions. Twentyfour7. caught up with Bill Hemmings, director of aviation and shipping at Transport & Environment, and Hege Økland, managing director of Norwegian cluster NCE Maritime CleanTech, on the sidelines of a recent Horizons workshop in Oslo to get their thoughts on how the industry might evolve over the next decade.

What progress has been made so far on decarbonisation in shipping?

Hemmings: It's been a long, hard road. At the International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting a few weeks ago, there were people outside protesting for rapid action. That's exactly what the IMO hasn't delivered. Governments and industry have to recognise the time is up. The 0.5% sulphur cap is just about the only significant measure achieved in terms of emissions in 20 years. 

Økland: The industry has to act now. Technologies that will boost efficiency and cut waste will feature heavily in the coming years, especially the use of data to optimise onboard capacity. Speed reduction is one thing but it's not the answer to everything. Addressing how ships are served in port is also crucial. Today's "first come, first serve" principle is inefficient. Ships spend too much time in port polluting the local environment. Ports should adopt a slot time mechanism so that vessels can adjust their speed to when they will be served in port. 

How can the shipping industry be encouraged to address the issue of pollution? 

Hemmings: People aren't aware of the scale of shipping emissions — but that will change. The level of air pollution from ships in port is astounding, despite the sulphur regulations. It'll be even more staggering when the EU releases the first shipping monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) data for 2018. Ships pollute far more than cars in port cities all around the world. That has to stop. 

Public pressure will drive the introduction of low or sulphur emission control areas (SECAs) in Europe and in ports as well. Regulation has to be there, and it has to be fair. It has to be on all tonnage, it can't just start with European ships.

Økland: Cruise ships brings the issue closer to the mainstream. Here, shipping is part of the consumer product, with tourists interacting closely with the vessel. You may become ashamed of your carbon footprint and, as a consumer, force some kind of change.

In Flåm, a key cruise destination in Norway's pristine fjords, media has given extensive coverage to protests against pollution by cruise ships. And Bergen, Norway's largest cruise harbour, has set up an energy efficiency index for visiting ships. Those that simply comply with existing IMO regulation pay a penalty in extra port fees, but vessels with highly efficient engines and the ability to take shore power get a bonus. Mechanisms like this can be incentives to move the industry forward. 

Any thoughts on the best way forward?

Hemmings: I suggest increased adoption of battery electric propulsion, and hopefully more innovative infrastructure projects like the Wärtsilä-led ZEEDS to supply new clean fuels. Being told that by a certain point in time your energy will have to be partially clean gives life to projects like ZEEDS and other innovation, like fuel hybridisation.

The way forward is clear on SOx, where we will eventually have to go down to the sulphur content level of road diesel at 10 parts per million. But the other big problem is NOx. The only solution there is a paradigm shift to clean fuels. Not all clean fuels solve the NOxproblem, but SOX is a regulatory issue. NOxis a transition issue, which is more fundamental.

Økland: Measures must be taken that are effective for ships being designed and built today. As for fuels, ZEEDS is promising, as it shows how the industry can bind together to develop solutions that can be commercially sustainable which, together with regulations can put us on the right course. 

What advice would you give the industry leaders and governments?

Økland: Every ship owner and cargo owner should put sustainability at the top of their agenda, especially if they're going to be taken seriously by investors. They also have to actually follow through with their proposals. For example, the Cruise Lines International Association has committed to cutting its emissions globally by 40% by 2030. But to be taken seriously they have to do something. You can't just announce those targets and not act.

Hemmings: The sulphur cap must come in on schedule. Not everyone will comply of course but the HFO carriage ban [from March 2020] will get them eventually, certainly in Europe. It will be hard to hide, given that between 50 and 70 percent of all oceangoing ships call at European ports at least once a year.

We have an obligation to future generations. Their voices cannot be quieted. We've already seen it in the European elections. Politicians are realising they haven't done the necessary work over the past five to 10 years. 

There is a tendency among officials to think a market-based measure will solve the problem. The transition required is far more complex than a market-based measure could ever achieve. They are thinking traditionally. But we need non-traditional ways to accomplish it. If the officials don't understand how the industry is thinking, the regulations will be neither unfit for business nor effective.