The IMO’s Revised Strategy to cut GHG emissions makes training in new fuels a matter of urgency

Captain Jeffrey Parfitt FNI Head of Safety and Environment, The Nautical Institute

There is increasing recognition of the need for seafarer training in the use of alternative fuels – but there is still work to be done, particularly with the announcement of IMO’s revised strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gases. During June, classification society DNV published a paper on The Future of Seafarers 2030: A Decade of Transformation. It identifies two ‘primary transformative trends – decarbonisation and digitalisation’, and examines the implications for future workforce preparedness. Crucially, DNV identifies that skills already in place in the tanker/ gas segment will be relevant for ships operating with alternative fuel technologies. The report goes on to say that seafarers will need to maintain a high level of safety awareness to identify potential hazards and risks including emergency response, incident investigation, safety management systems and drills.

Emergency preparedness remains central to The Nautical Institute’s position, along with the need for both generic and specific training. The paper also looks at work coming out of the recent developments at the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which has agreed to initiate a comprehensive review and revision of the STCW Convention and Code. ‘IMO working groups are preparing to include training content related to other alternate fuels, such as ammonia and methanol, in the near future,’ the report says. It recommends that: ‘…key stakeholders, including the IMO, Flag States, shipowners/ operators/managers, and training academies, actively evaluate and address the skill gaps in digitalization and decarbonization within the maritime industry during the current decade.’ These are encouraging words, and much of the paper is in broad alignment with our position.

IMO Revised Strategy MEPC 80

July saw the Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) at the IMO. The ‘Revised Strategy’ on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships was adopted on 7 July 2023, with an ‘enhanced common ambition’ to reduce emissions. This gives ‘a clear direction, a common vision, and ambitious targets to guide us to deliver what the world expects from us,’ said IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim. The Revised Strategy marks a significant raising of expectations from the initial strategy, aiming to keep alive the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to no more than 1.5% by 2050. Recommendations include ‘indicative checkpoints’ (from a 2008 baseline) of:

  • reducing emissions by at least 20%, but striving for 30%, by 2030;
  • reducing emissions by at least 70%, striving for 80%, by 2040;
  • reaching net-zero ‘by or around, i.e., close to 2050’, qualified by whether ‘national circumstances allow’.

Responses to the revision have been varied, with many environmental groups roundly condemning the announcement as, among other things a ‘…wish and prayer agreement… language seemingly contrived to be vague and non-committal’ [John Maggs – Clean Shipping Coalition]; ‘reminiscent of rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship…’ [Faig Abbasov - Transport & Environment]; ‘The way the International Maritime Organisation has watered down its climate ambition will sink the shipping sector’s chances of meeting its Paris Agreement commitments.’ [Daniele Rao – Carbon Market Watch].

On the flip side, many industry supporters see the revisions as an ‘aggressive timeline’ and ‘…knowing what you emit is becoming business critical…’ [comment from a classification society].

Where next?

The Revised Strategy has reached an agreement in principle with a basket of measures involving technical measures and economic elements for entry into force 2027. Additional regulations are under development. It looks like there will be an increase in regulatory complexity as compliance will become tougher. There is an emphasis on energy efficiency as well as zero and near zero fuels. Of course, it is the fuel issue that The Nautical Institute is most interested in. We will focus on the pursuit of harmonised minimum standards of seafarer training with the proposed alternative fuels. I am pleased to announce that The Nautical Institute has been invited to join the Maritime Just Transition Task Force Global Industry Peer Learning Group workstream, which will seek to create training materials on the alternative fuels. The Task Force was set up during COP 26 in Glasgow by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), International Labour Organisation (ILO), IMO and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) to ensure that shipping’s response to the climate emergency puts seafarers at the heart of the solution, supported by globally established Just Transition principles. The Nautical Institute maintains that it is incumbent upon the industry to ensure and implement effective and comprehensive seafarer training in these matters. There is a need to mitigate any potential flag State variable in the application of such training. We shall maintain our line that seafarers must not be allowed to become collateral damage in the pursuit of alternative fuel technology.

The Nautical Institute recently took part in a Seafarers’ Charity podcast ‘SEAVIEWS’ relating to safety at sea. Click here to listen to our podcast on alternative fuels.

Extracted from Nautical Institute website, read more here

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