Decreasing ship speeds could improve human health, benefit the environment by cutting carbon emissions, and reduce whale collisions, according to new research commissioned by campaign groups Seas At Risk and Transport and Environment.
The report, called ‘The multi-issue mitigation potential of reducing ship speeds’, indicated that carbon emissions could be reduced by circa 13% and 24%, if ships reduced their speed by 10% and 20% respectively. The reason for this is when ships travel slowly they burn less fuel, it said.
In the report, the campaigners found that a 10% speed reduction causes the engine power to dip by 27%, and as a result, the energy required for the voyage is reduced by 19%.
Alongside reducing emissions, the report said that a 20% speed reduction would curb pollutants that damage human health, such as black carbon, sulphur and nitrogen oxides.
Stressing on the importance of cutting black carbon, it said that slower speeds would help tackle climate change – especially in the Arctic region. When ships burn fuel in the northern region, the particles emitted fall on snow and restrict its ability to reflect back sunlight, which heats the ice quicker, the report claimed.
In addition, a 20% reduction in ship speeds could cut underwater noise by 66% and reduce the chances of whale collisions by 78%.
The campaigners urged leaders in the maritime industry to curtail speed as it would be a “contributory factor” to achieve the goal set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in April 2018. The regulation requires ships to achieve a 50% GHG reduction by 2050 compared to 2008, and eventually full decarbonisation.
Describing how shipping generates a significant portion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the report said that ships cause 3% of the global total – roughly the same quantity as emitted by Germany.
Commenting on the report, Seas at Risk’s senior policy advisor John Maggs described slower speeds as a “massive win, win, win, win.”
“We’ve got a win from a climate point of view, we’ve got a win from a human health point of view, we’ve got a win for marine nature, we’ve got a potential safety gain, and up to a certain point we are saving the shipping industry money,” Maggs said.
“It is also of course by far the simplest of the regulatory options. Thanks to satellites and transponders on commercial vessels it really is quite easy to track their movements and the speed they are travelling.”
This is hardly the first time campaigners outlined the benefits of reduced ship speeds.
In an open letter sent in April, more than 100 chief executives in the maritime sector collaborated with nine campaign groups and asked IMO member states to impose a speed limit on commercial vessels.
The letter stressed “‘the urgent need'” for shipping to cut its contribution to climate change and how reduced speed can help solve the issue.
The letter said: “As the initial step we express our strong support for the IMO implementing mandatory regulation of global ship speeds differentiated across ship type and size categories.”
UN negotiators and IMO representatives are expected to meet in London this week to consider proposals to curb maritime speeds and to discuss short-term measures that will start delivering its climate commitment deal by 2023.