Effective and efficient, shipping is the most environment-friendly mode of transport. However, marine fuels emit contaminants such as sulphur oxides (SOX), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and fine particles (PM), which are all harmful to human health and the environment.
SOX and NOX contribute to rain and watercourse acidification and, in conjunction with PMs, also promote smog creation. Their concentration is directly linked to fuel quality and engine combustion processes.
The combustion of bunker fuel, a widely used marine fuel, produces more contaminants than liquefied natural gas (LNG) combustion.
Shipping also emits CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG), known to be major contributors to climate change.
For years, the issue of ships’ air emissions has been widely discussed, leading to international conventions, laws and regulations aimed at reducing shipping’s impact on air quality and climate.
SOX, NOX and fine particles
Since 2012, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has established strict rules governing marine fuels’ NOX emissions and sulphur content. By 2020, ships will have to gradually reduce the sulphur content of their fuels to 0.5%.
The IMO has also outlined emission control areas (ECA) covering most North American populated coastal regions. In these areas, ships will have to use fuels whose sulphur content does not exceed 0.1%.
To comply, ship operators can choose to use better quality fuels or opt for technological solutions allowing equivalent results to be achieved.
While ship owners and operators support these measures, the transition to the 2020 objectives is complex. The quality and availability of more refined fuels, efficiency and the constraints involved in installing and operating new technologies, as well as the impact these new measures will have on ships’ operating costs, are all issues ship owners and operators will face.
SLS does significant advocacy work with government authorities to have these constraints taken into account when applying regulations and so that their implementation does not harm shipping’s competitiveness vis-à-vis other, less efficient modes of transport, such as road transport.
Shipping’s CO2 emissions are also being widely discussed nationally and internationally. In 2018, the IMO adopted a first greenhouse gas reduction strategy for shipping aimed at reducing total GHGs by 50% compared to 2008 levels by 2050 and targeting the sector’s complete decarbonisation by the turn of the century.
Many measures, some of which are regulatory, are already being applied in the industry to improve ships’ energy efficiency and reduce their GHG emissions. In recent year, the Canadian marine industry has invested many billions of dollars to buy new, more effective ships and state-of-the-art technologies.
Market-based measures, such as applying carbon charges or implementing a cap and trade system, commonly called the “carbon exchange”, are other means the federal government is currently studying to reduce GHG emissions.
As in other files, SLS’ role entails intervening with the authorities concerned to voice our members’ interests and concerns so that potential new measures are fair, effective and adapted to the industry, while not constituting an administrative burden for our members.