The regulatory framework the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will be deciding on in the near future, with a view to decarbonizing shipping by 2050, can only succeed if it is smart, fair and targets the real polluters. And, it must also take into account the specific features of the different shipping sectors into account, said Greek Shipping Minister Christos Stylianides in a speech yesterday on the first day of the 33rd IMO General Assembly in London.

Outlining the Greek position, Stylianides also said that the charterer will bear any green transition-related costs, since it is their decisions that determine a ship’s behavior (speed, itinerary, etc.). He also made it clear that cooperation between all the stakeholders—meaning shipyards, engine manufacturers and fuel companies—would be needed to ensure the transition’s success. “We should work with a united spirit. Engage with and involve all the actors: ship-owners, fuel producers, ports, charterers, engine manufacturers and shipyards. This is the only way to achieve carbon-neutral shipping by 2050,” he said.

Carbonation is one of the biggest challenges facing shipping today. And the IMO is the right place to take decisions. “The answer to ‘how’ is simple and straightforward: We must all fully support the rapid implementation of the revised 2023 IMO GHG strategy,” Stylianides said.

The Strategy

The strategy to which the IMO is already committed foresees the transition to zero emissions taking place “in or around 2050.” Also, from next March, discussions will begin at the IMO on whether “market-based measures,” as they are called, such as a levy on fuel or tax on shipping pollution, should be taken in addition to technical and operational measures to achieve the green transition.

At the Hellenic Ministry of Shipping, they are expecting “a major battle over this measure at the IMO” since various nations, mainly in South America, are opposed to it on the grounds that such a tax would make their products far more expensive, given the long distances they have to be transported to the countries where they are consumed.

Speaking at the IMO, Stylianides commented on the issue indirectly, noting that the efforts of the Organization’s members should “focus on striking the right balance. Between what the world needs and how the overall shipping chain can deliver it. Efficiently and cost-effectively.” He asked those present to “be pragmatic” and take into account “costs and their effect on the most vulnerable.”

It should be remembered that the EU has already decided to include shipping in the European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) as a market-based measure—a measure opposed by the shipping industry, which sees it as a purely “tax-based,” rather than environmental, measure.

Nonetheless, the EU is looking ahead to a global regulatory framework from the IMO within the next two years, and does not rule out adapting its own measure to align with a satisfactory decision from the IMO, allowing all shipping to operate under the same legal regime worldwide.