Slow steaming is ‘most realistic’ emissions curb, says Procopiou

Although sulphur cap conversation recently has boiled down to a binary battle between compliant fuels and scrubbers, leading Greek shipowner George Procopiou has spoken up in favour of the so-called third solution of imposing slow steaming across the industry. Wanting answers as to why the seemingly-attractive solution has not gained more traction, Mr Procopiou also took the opportunity to give his views on scrubbers

Greek owner wants answers as to why slow steaming has so far been left out of the IMO’s emissions measures, while dismissing scrubbers as ‘useless equipment’

Shifting pollution from the air to the sea did not make sense, said George Procopiou of scrubbers.

REGULATORS should introduce mandatory slow steaming as a giant step towards long-term emissions reduction targets, according to shipowner George Procopiou.

The move could be in parallel with existing sulphur cap measures requiring low-sulphur fuels or the use of scrubbers, which the owner branded “useless equipment” that is not in the best interests of the environment.

Slow steaming as a concept has been supported by groups of shipowners and some environmental bodies in the recent past, but appears to have largely been left out of the conversation lately as different lobbies duel over the nitty-gritty of switching to new compliant fuels or fitting scrubbers.

Looking at speed optimisation and speed reduction does, however, remain among the list of potential ‘candidate short-term measures’ that could be agreed by the IMO’s marine environment protection committee between now and 2023.

Speaking at the Malta Maritime Summit, Mr Procopiou challenged rule-makers and other stakeholders to engage with the proposal which offered “a more realistic solution” than either of those so far mandated.

In addition to pessimism over availability of compliant low sulphur fuel, there is insufficient capacity for manufacturing and installing scrubbers on much of the world fleet by 2020, he said.

By adopting a limit of 10 knots, despite the need of more tonnage, emissions of SOx, NOx, particles and CO2 would fall by 60% from existing levels.

“The result is tangible right from the first day… and without creating any further pollution nor increasing the incremental carbon footprint for the manufacturing of useless equipment,” he said.

“I don’t understand the hypocrisy,” said the founder of Dynacom Tankers, Sea Traders and Dynagas. “I want to hear why is this proposal not good? Because no one is making money out of it?”

In Mr Procopiou’s view the model could be flexible to allow for ships that needed to exceed mandated slower speeds. This could be offset by them paying into a green fund.

“Shifting pollution from the air to the sea does not make sense,” said the owner, launching into criticism of scrubbers. “There is nothing more polluting than recycling existing equipment because you don’t use it anymore.”

Mr Procopiou was also unhappy with the 2020 deadline for switching to 0.5% sulphur fuels across the industry.

It was the refineries’ responsibility to produce fuels complying with the regulations but the schedule was unrealistic.

“The biggest priority should be the environment for our kids and grandchildren,” he said. “Shipowners are very sensitive. But you are asking the impossible. These are measures that should be taken gradually in order to give the appropriate time to engine manufacturers and shipyards to come up with solutions that can meet the standard.

“It is not a matter of cost, it is a matter of time frame,” he said.

During the conference discussion, industry delegates also heard strong support for not wavering from the IMO’s timetable.

The timely implementation of the sulphur cap was “extremely important” so as not to compromise the International Maritime Organization’s credibility, argued Vassilios Demetriades, policy officer in the European Commission’s DG mobility and transport.

“It is not just the credibility of a UN body, it is the credibility of the entire shipping industry [at stake],” he said. “We know the concerns but we need to be proactive.”

The IMO’s legislation was pioneering and should be seen as “a feather in its cap”, said Malta’s climate change ambassador, Professor Simone Borg.

“It is the first of its kind as an international strategy that dovetails with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change,” said Prof Berg. “It is an important start and a platform that will enable the industry to be in the forefront of achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals. The IMO is setting an example for other industries to follow.”

She thought it was important in enabling shipping to be “an innovator” while having a staggered timetable, with further deadlines in the coming decades, would help the industry “avoid shocks in the future”.


*This article has been published on Lloyd’s List and you may access it through the link here.