Maritime transport is the solution to achieve an environment-friendly economy, not an obstacle

Ships carry large volumes over long distances. This makes them the most sustainable form of transport. But that does not mean that shipping must stay with the packs. On the contrary, she must take action. Improve where it is better so that shipping preserves its lead on other means of transportation.

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A substantial reduction in CO2 emissions is possible

The IMO significantly reduces the CO2-emissions from newly-built vessels. Shipping accounts for a relatively small part of total CO2-emissions (2%), especially considering the vast quantity of goods carried daily by vessels. Shipping scores high marks with respect to energy efficiency, up to fifty times better than air freight transport.

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The real challenge is how to make ships more energy-efficient

Past fuel price hikes have repeatedly triggered energy-efficiency measures by shipowners (for instance, sailing at a lower speed). There are still quite a lot of sectorspecific hurdles to be overcome. According to the RBSA the evolution toward a CO2- neutral economy is a golden opportunity to be seized by the industry. Why? Because maritime transport has already achieved such high levels of energy efficiency and given the fact that much can still be improved. A legitimate question would be: what is realistic in the short and the long term?

The numbers tell the tale

The RBSA has been adhering to this principle for many years. In 2008, we measured the energy-efficiency of 43 vessels under the Belgian flag, in cooperation with the ‘Vlaams Instituut voor Technologisch Onderzoek’ (VITO). The results of this study were presented to the IMO.

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The RBSA creates the first international think tank on carbon-free shipping

Decarbonisation is an issue that calls for urgent action: increased efficiency, technological innovation, access to finance, clear regulations are topics that should be tackled through a dedicated platform. In 2016 the RBSA took the initiative to set up a think tank where all stakeholders involved can orient  around steps in the decarbonisation pathway.

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Be clear and thoughtful with environmental legislation

Environmental legislation often leads to major investments. Some shipowners have installed scrubbers (to wash the sulphur out of the exhaust) and others go even further, switching to gas as a fuel. What shipowners and companies need most is clarity about admissible emission levels (in the air and water) in international and territorial waters.

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The environment, health and shipping go hand in hand

The international community is concerned about the impact of airborne sulphur and nitrogen emissions especially where high traffic sea lanes meet densely populated areas.

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‘Alien Invasive species’ travel with the ballast water

Every year ships carry an estimated 5 to 10 billion tonnes of ballast water which provide the necessary draught and stability. With that ballast water alien invasive organisms are carried which, when ballast water is discharged, can harm the local flora and fauna. This poses a threat to the biodiversity of our oceans. IMO has therefore signed the Ballast Water Management Convention to control the problem.

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Recycling ships safely and without harming the environment

How does one recycle ships safely and without damage to the environment? The 2009 Hong Kong Convention on ship recycling imposes a set of clear and relevant requirements for this purpose on shipowners, shipyards and all other IMO parties involved (i.e. governments). To cover the period until the Convention comes into force, the European Commission introduced a regulation in April 2012, applicable to large merchant ocean-going vessels of above 500 GT, i.e. the category of vessels concerned by the Hong Kong Convention.

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