Unobtainable targets

Have impossible and unobtainable targets been set for the shipping industry in order to reduce greenhouse gases on the waves?

Impossible and unobtainable targets have been set for the shipping industry, in order to reduce greenhouse gases on the waves, according to a University of Greenwich at Medway lecturer.

Marine fuel oils are responsible for moving the world’s maritime fleet. In an attempt to make shipping more environmentally-friendly, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduced a 4.5 per cent global cap on sulphur emissions – a major cause of acid rain – in marine fuel.

This was taken a stage further by the European Union which insisted that sulphur emission control areas (SECA) be set up in parts of the continent such as the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, where levels would have to be 1.5 per cent or lower.

However, Dr Alec Coutroubis, a principal lecturer in the School of Engineering, believes these targets are unobtainable.

‘Not all refineries have the capacity to provide the right fuel in the right quantity and concentration, therefore not enough of the more environmentally friendly fuel is available at all ports of the world,’ he said.

Furtermore, the issue of what type of fuel a ship should burn when it moves from outside Europe into EU waters has not been addressed in enough detail. ‘Are they supposed to carry two types of fuel – one with 4.5 per cent levels of sulphur and one with 1.5 per cent level of sulphur?’ he asked.

Complicating the issue further, engine lubricating oils have to be adjusted in conjunction with the characteristics of the fuel burnt. And on a ship that’s no small matter – 10,000 or more litres may need to be stored on board. ‘If different types are required for different fuels then this adds further complication,’ he said.