Who needs evidence?

06 Jun 2019 - Emma Mark

Who needs evidence?

We don’t normally do this but for once, we’re using this space to actually agree with someone. Let’s get one thing straight before we go on, we aren’t doing a Donald Trump and saying that global warming isn’t happening because that’s just plain daft and frankly the evidence to support climate change is too overwhelming to ignore.

Shipping is responsible for around 3% of the global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions but remains the most efficient transportation method known to man, so why are the fingers pointing at us to miraculously find a solution to the most life threatening problem man has ever faced?  Heating and electricity are the biggest culprits, racking up 31% in man made GHGs, but nobody wants to live in a house without central heating, aircon, lighting and all the modcons that we’ve all become so very accustomed to. And what about deforestation and aggressive agriculture?  The public may be up in arms, and rightly so, about the loss of rainforests and the catastrophic effect this is having on our environment but are we all going to give up palm oil? Nope, because we all quite like our chocolate, baked goods, and glossy hair shampoo.

But back to the issue in hand, our industry is under pressure to reduce steaming speeds for all commercial vessels and as Mr Sanguinetti, CEO of the UK Chamber of Shipping has pointed out, there isn’t sufficient evidence to back up this claim.   Slowing down vessels will effectively increase demand for them, meaning more vessels are out at sea delivering our cheap trainers, jeans and white goods from the Far East. This isn’t the answer, the answer comes from looking to technology and science, there are literally hundreds probably thousands of innovators out there with potential solutions for us to choose from.

Take StormGeo for example, last year they routed 64,000 voyages worldwide, resulting in 1 million tons of high-sulphur fuel oil savings, a 3 million ton reduction in CO2 emissions, and  35,000 tons less sulphur released into the atmosphere. All by using weather data and a bit of brain power.

Mr Sanguinetti hits the nail on the head when he goes on to say, “Were (the recent IMO) proposals to be accepted, it would provide a disincentive to research, development, engineering and manufacturing necessary to decarbonise.”  And that’s the issue, if we accept slow steaming as a silver bullet, and it most certainly is not, we’re closing our minds to the other possibilities that are right in front of us.

Initiatives in China are looking at widespread onshore charging stations and will have 500 shore power units installed by 2020 using renewable energy to allow vessels to cold iron when in port.  Genius! So why aren’t we all looking at this kind of solution? Why aren’t the IMO forcing the major shipping liners to fund research into renewable energy sources, wind powered vessels and port call optimisation to reduce fuel consumption?  Because it’s easier to go for the quick win and as we discussed last week, that quick win could potentially make a lot of people a lot of money.

As consumers, we also have to question our own commitment to the environmental cause.  Are we really prepared to pay more for our goods from overseas, knowing that if we keep on pretending that everything is just fine we can continue to get cheap clothes and food, and screw the consequences? There is often a discrepancy between our intentions and opinions and the actions we actually take.  To illustrate this point British actress Emma Thompson recently partook in an environmental demonstration in London and then flew back to LA first class with British Airways.

As an industry we have to look to the future, doing the same thing that we’ve done time and time again won’t save us now.  We’ve tried slow streaming and it didn’t suddenly show an enormous dent in the GHG used, so how about we actually go for the next big thing, whatever that may be?  The human race is the most advanced it has ever been, we can achieve anything we set our minds to and yet we’re still looking backwards for a miracle cure that is never going to come.  

It’s time to wake up and smell those overpriced coffee beans (bought to you all the way from Costa Rica by ship), and do something because we’re really running out of time, and that’s the one thing we can’t recreate.

©Intelligent Cargo Systems 2019