Looming new environmental regulations are triggering sharp divisions in the shipping industry between vessel operators investing billions of dollars to reduce emissions and others who want to stave off the financial impact by simply slowing down ships.
More than 100 shipowners, including some big Greek and German charter businesses, have signed a letter to the International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations that works as the global marine regulator, calling for slower sailing speeds to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
If adopted, the measure could ripple across international supply chains, with products taking more time to be delivered and cargo owners paying more for transport costs because of the longer sailings.
The idea behind “slow-steaming” is to push back the hefty costs that would come from turning to expensive new fuel and equipment to meet environmental targets, and from investing in a new generation of ships that would use hydrogen, batteries or biofuels for propulsion.
The IMO is scheduled to take up the proposal at a meeting next week in London, putting it at the heart of continuing fractious debates between shipowners, regulators and the world’s biggest cargo customers over efforts to reduce pollution from oceangoing vessels. If the proposal gains traction it could become law as soon as late next year.
Ships move the world’s commodities like oil, iron ore and grains and the vast majority of manufactured goods, including cars, home appliances, clothing and food.