At a time when the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) is coming under increasing pressure to force shipping to act more in line with International standards we are looking at two simple but important problems.
CO2 emissions and Crew management and Vessel safety at sea.
With falling rates, cheaper services reduced transit times and larger vessels you really have to ask what is the true cost of shipping. Not just the financial implications of reducing shipping rates which all freight forwarders like to see but the true environmental and social cost. Are bigger ships operating the high seas really the best way to go in the present format.
The IMO has overseen some vessel design implementation which needs to be applauded but is this close to being anywhere near enough. Some governments seem to be suggesting it isn’t anywhere near close. Vessel safety is coming under increasing focus and the environmental implications for shipping are never far away.
Shipping and CO2
This week several governments including the UK have applied pressure to the International Maritime Organisation to clean up it’s act with regards to CO2. Concerns over the way the shipping industry falls outside of treaties has led to concerns on the direction of vessel operators and shipping in general.
With the IMO operating globally outside of any individual bodies influence questions are now being raised about how it manages shipping. Countries across the world have signed treaties in relation to CO2 but international shipping is not bound by these as they operate outside of country influence in the high seas.
On it’s present trajectory shipping could contribute somewhere close to a fifth of the global total of CO2 emissions by 2050. A group of emerging nations with some shipping stalwarts are resisting targets on CO2, namely Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India, Panama and Argentina.
The meeting of the IMO in London next week is seen as key to the direction shipping will take and how responsible action is needed by the IMO to strengthen it’s commitment to working globally to set ambitious targets to drive down pollution, with particular emphasis on CO2.
It is believed that the race for faster transit times is fuelling what has been a huge increase in global CO2 emissions related to shipping. Indeed campaigners say that obliging ships to travel more slowly would be a quick stop gap for huge improvements to CO2 levels from shipping whilst waiting for cleaner technology to be installed.
Vessel safety at sea
It seems striking that in less than five years the AMSA ( Australian Maritime Safety Association ) has deemed it necessary to ban five ships from entering Australian ports.
The latest vessel to be banned has been the MSC Kia Ora which was operated on behalf of MSC by Vega-Reederei, this being the same company who operated the Vega Auriga which was banned back in 2014.
MSC has put out a press release attempting to distance themselves from the working practices of their supplier but in a world where global, ethical sourcing of products is a huge factor in the consumers decision making process you have to question how MSC can feel it is not their responsibility to check on the suppliers they out-source to.
Off-Hiring a ship after being told it can no longer operate on a route surely isn’t enough. Freely admitting it does not oversee the maintenance, or the workforce of a chartered vessel operating in their name and carrying cargo booked through their offices is also something of a concern to freight forwarders who entrust them with their cargo.
The five ships which Australia have banned in the last two years are the Five Stars Fujian (IMO 9402287), Kiunga Cheif (IMO 9195119 ) Rena (IMO 9464780), DL Carnation (IMO 9618680), MSC Kia Ora (IMO 9364344) clicking on the link takes you to the official AMSA refusal access list.
If you read the report on this latest ship the MSC Kia Ora you see that not only were the crew being underpaid but their were also questions over the crew’s rest and fitness for duty, 2 out of 4 generators were defective as well as the starboard main engine fire damper, In all 24 deficiencies were noted and the ship was detained. Upon re-inspection the ship was released but immediately issued with a banning order preventing it from docking in Australia for a minimum period of 3 months. Two of the ships banned in the last two years have been refused access to Australia for 12 months due to the seriousness of the issues found. If Australia are banning ships should this be replicated across the rest of the world to force vessel and charter operators to improve crew working conditions and the holding back of wages.
Vessel Safety and managing the supply chain
When you look at Solas and the need for vessels to be operated in a secure and safe manner whilst operating within a world where polluting for profit is no longer a justifiable excuse the IMO needs to decide how it is going to strengthen the way it police’s it’s members.
It arguably risks being left behind by a world in which more emphasis is placed on ethical working practices and full visibility of the supply chain.
If even coffee can have full traceability from field to cup then surely the shipping line transporting the goods halfway around the world need to be held accountable for the way that they operate.
The global carbon footprint and vessel operating safety cannot be put at risk in the name of cost-cutting to compete and hold and reduce rates whilst providing a quicker transit for the end customer.
With the meeting starting on Tuesday all eyes will surely be on these talks and how they progress and freight forwarders surely want to see the shipping lines put their house in order.