European shortsea shipping falling behind on clean fuel

The shortsea shipping industry is being left behind in the effort to adjust to new global environmental regulations despite it being the maritime domain that needs clean fuel the most. Still, the positive impact of these regulations is the subject of some dispute.

That Greece, a dominant player in both oceangoing and shortsea shipping shortsea is among those determined to take the lead in rectifying this was underlined when it hosted the annual European Conference of the European Shortsea Network in Piraeus last week.

“The further development of short sea shipping should be an important priority of European Union policy for both developmental and environmental reasons,” declared Charalampos Simantonis, president of the Hellenic Shortsea Shipowners Association (HSSA).

Simantlonis was backed by Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) treasurer, John Xylas, who said the powerful UGS is working for the “fullest and most efficient representation of the shortsea sector in the international scene”.

One of the main problems facing the sector is regulatory fragmentation.

Several speakers pointed this out noting there is no common space for the entire European Union and shortsea trips within the Mediterranean or the North Sea come under different law systems along their trips.

palauceoPanos Kirnidis, ceo of fast growing Palau International Ship Registry (PISR), the event¹s lead sponsor, said shortsea shipping “is one of those maritime sectors that will be of greater importance in the coming years as we look further down the road towards zero emissions, digital operations and autonomous shipping”.

It was noted the shortsea sector has been slow to adapt new IMO rules, which include the imposition of a 0.5% sulphur cap on the fuel used as of January 2020.

“Unlike cruise liners and tankers, which are making the switch to LNG propulsion with newbuilds, shortsea vessels are being left behind,” said Alexander Prokopakis, ceo of Probunkers, a Greek company planning to have seven bunker ships for offshore refueling of LNG-powered vessels from 2023.

“Yet it is primarily shortsea shipping that should make the switch to LNG, as the environmental impact of vessels sailing closer to ports and inhabited areas is more important for people¹s health,” he said.

Panos Zachariadis, technical director of Atlantic Bulk Carriers and a long-time member of Greece¹s delegation to IMO described LNG as “the mother of all alternative fuels”. However, he appeared more skeptical over the application of LNG due to methane slip. “It leaks come to 4-5%, and the methane emitted is 86 times more dangerous than the carbon dioxide that we are seeking to reduce”.

He expressed a preference for renewable energy sources, including nuclear power, and wondered “how much CO2 will be emitted to build the new ships that meet the environmental rules?”