The IMO’s working group on the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions will continue to consider proposals for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping when it meets in March, immediately prior to the MEPC meeting.   At the last meeting, in November 2019, it became clear that there was little appetite for mandatory speed reduction measures and attention is now turning towards goal-based operational efficiency measures.  

The proposed goal-based measures fall broadly into two camps: the Existing Ship Energy Efficiency Index (EEXI) proposal originally from Japan and Norway, which fundamentally would involve existing vessels being required to meet technical efficiency targets in a similar way to new ships under the EEDI; and the operational efficiency proposal initially submitted by Denmark, Germany and Spain, which would require vessels to reach progressively lower “carbon intensity” levels.  Both would be likely to involve speed reduction, in the case of the EEXI through shaft power limitation and in the Danish proposal through operational slow steaming, but both would also allow the use of innovative technology to reach the goals set.  The working group will look further into into these proposals and various variations on these themes.

A fundamental difference between the two approaches is enforcement.  The EEXI is what might be described as a “pre-certification” approach, in that the vessel would be inspected and if found to be in compliance would be issued with a certificate.  The operational efficiency approach would involve measuring the ship’s carbon intensity over the course of a year or some other agreed period and then issuing a certificate for the following year.  There are many issues as yet undecided in this approach, including how to calculate carbon intensity in 2008 (the base year) for various vessel types and sizes, what the level and rate of reduction should be, and – importantly – how a ship’s carbon intensity would be measured.

Despite these imponderables many member states are enthusiastic about this approach, viewing it as the only way to ensure that the IMO’s emission reduction goals can be reached.  It remains to be seen whether a practical and equitable scheme can be developed in time for it to be put into force by 2023 in accordance with the timeline for short term measures in the IMO’s Initial Strategy.