Reducing CO2 Emissions

In line with a new commitment by ICS to the UN Ocean Conference, the global industry has proposed that the International Maritime Organization should adopt three Aspirational Objectives on behalf of the international sector as a whole (which is not covered by the INDCs that governments have made as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change):

  • To maintain international shipping’s annual total CO2 emissions below 2008 levels
  • To reduce CO2 emissions per tonne of cargo transported one kilometre, as an average across international shipping, by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008
  • To reduce international shipping’s total annual CO2 emissions by an agreed percentage by 2050, compared to 2008, as a point on a continuing trajectory of CO2 emissions reduction.

Reducing Sulphur Emissions

In line with new IMO regulations, which are fully supported by the industry, the maximum sulphur content of marine fuel for most ships globally will reduce from 3.5% to 0.5% from 1 January 2020 (except in Emission Control Areas where ships must already use fuel with a sulphur content of 0.1%).

In practice – and at a collective cost to the global industry approaching US$100 billion per year – most ships will have to use distillate (diesel) fuel
rather than the residual heavy fuel oil that most ships currently use.

As well as bringing significant health benefits to coastal populations, the implementation of the global sulphur in fuel cap will reduce the impact from shipping on Ocean acidification.

Enhancing Sustainable Development Goal 14

Within the authority of UNCLOS, the shipping industry enjoys the regulatory framework provided by IMO, including the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which inter alia regulates the discharge of oil, hazardous substances, sewage and garbage into the Ocean, as well as regulating atmospheric emissions from shipping.

The success of the MARPOL Convention and its strong implementation through a sophisticated system of flag and port state control is demonstrated by the dramatic reduction of oil pollution, despite a huge increase in maritime trade.

BWM Convention

The industry is also committed to the successful implementation of the IMO Ballast Water Management Convention which enters into force worldwide in September 2017. At a collective cost to the industry of about US$100 billion, this will involve the installation of enormous treatment systems to prevent the impact of invasive marine species unwittingly being moved in ships’ ballast water tanks.


There are three pillars to sustainability: economic and social as well as environmental. ICS believes that government regulators should give equal priority to each of these three pillars, including the economic. This is especially important in view of shipping’s role in the continuing spread of global prosperity and the movement of about 90% of trade in goods, energy and raw materials.

The vital need to protect the environment and for ships to comply with all new environmental regulations is fully recognised. But unless the shipping industry is commercially viable, it will not be able to deliver the investments in environmental and social improvements that are sought by regulators
on behalf of society at large.

The sustainable development requires a shipping industry that is economically sustainable too.