15 October 2008

Singapore shipping industry: addressing environmental concerns

What do shipping and related industry leaders have to say about the environmental impact of shipping?

Business Times interviewed a panel including leaders of the Singapore Shipping Association, PSA Singapore Terminals, Shell, NTU Institute of Environmental Science and Intertanko Asia-Pacific.

There appears to be acceptance of impact of emissions of sulphur, nitrogen and carbon. As well as to references that "shipping is still the most efficient means of transport", with Shell saying that "on a per ton, per mile basis, shipping is usually the most environmentally friendly mode of transport". One lament is that shipping is "an easy target to blame".

The focus is on solutions that are "pragmatic". Shell mentions the need for efficiency: "only around 30 per cent of marine fuel is used to power the vessel, the rest is dissipated as heat", and others also pointed to ways to improve efficiency through design and operation of ships.

There is much reference to legislation and mention of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)'s recent rulings on sulphur emissions.

There is also mention that the "industry also needs to improve our image more" and to "educate the public".

One suggestion: "We need to let people know how important shipping is to world trade. Shipowners have a purpose to serve world trade which could not have grown without shipping. We also need to engage people from outside the industry to help them understand what we are doing. For example, we can arrange visits to ships to see how modern they really are."

Why should we care about shipping?

In a separate article, NOL remarked that "shipping is not as obvious a factor in people's lives as aeroplanes or cars which they regularly experience at a personal level. Often the only time shipping comes into the public eye is when something bad happens".

"Prescriptive regulations are not the answer as they only tend to lead to loopholes". The shipping must want to improve and the drive to do so could come from customers who call for compliance with sustainable practices.

"Enlightenment is nice as long as you are not being driven out of business by competitors because they are not doing the same as you."

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