International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) issued a position paper urging shipping industry to set ambitious targets and help prevent global climate catastrophe.
amely, the paper comes as Glasgow hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26 31 October – 12 November 2021).
According to ITF, there are currently more than 50,000 cargo ships on the world’s oceans, the majority of which run on low-grade, heavy ‘bunker’ fuel. Together, the ships emit as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as entire countries, such as industrial powerhouses Germany and Japan.
International shipping has not been explicitly included in the landmark Paris Agreement or its predecessors. The Paris Agreement aims to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. To bring international shipping into line with the Paris Agreement, the ITF is calling for the industry and regulators to commit to a target of zero-carbon by 2050.
“People who work at sea witness the impacts of climate change every day and are extremely concerned that their industry is not acting quickly enough,”…said Stephen Cotton, the ITF’s General Secretary. “Huge changes are needed swiftly to switch the shipping industry away from fossil fuels. Seafarers have the passion, knowledge and ideas to help move the industry to a carbon-free future.
“The decisions made by leaders over the coming weeks at COP and elsewhere will be crucial to preventing irreversible climate change. As working people, we deserve a planet that is safe to live on.”
The ITF’s sustainable shipping position paper “The green horizon we see beyond the big blue” sets out eight fundamental principles for a just transition to make sure the decarbonisation of the industry includes workers’ voices, as the industry tests alternative fuels, redesigns skills and career pathways, and shifts employment from fossil fuels to alternative fuel bunkering systems.
Seafarers want to be part of the solution. We want to be proud of the action taken by our industry. We want to lead the transition.
….said David Heindel, ITF Seafarers’ Section chair and the Federation’s Sustainable Shipping Working Group chair.
But switching from carbon heavy bunker fuel to new energy sources such as hydrogen or ammonia has the potential for danger for workers, the ITF’s paper points out.
Safety must be carefully thought through. Seafarers must receive adequate training. Changes such as the introduction of new technology must not be used as an excuse to reduce crewing numbers on ships or to attack workers’ jobs or conditions.
In fact, it says, the transition could lead to more employment, and is especially an opportunity to encourage more women and young people to take up work at sea.
Ports, the ITF warns, will need major investment to replace diesel tanks and pipeline infrastructure with the fuel systems of the future. Upgrades could cost hundreds of billions of dollars . Transitioning shipping to zero-carbon will be a challenge, particularly in the global south.
What is more, the ITF position paper calls on international regulators, governments and the shipping industry itself to look at ways the transition can be funded fairly, particularly for investments needed in the world’s poorest countries.
According to the paper:
The transition must be ambitious
Workers must have a planet that is safe to live on all policy initiatives adopted must secure a safe planet for workers.
The transition must be timely: Shipping must pull its weight and commit to zero emissions by 2050
- Emissions reduction targets for international shipping must be aligned with the Paris Agreement goals to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Regulation of shipping emissions must be set either through a binding target at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) or by the addition of international shipping in states’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.
The transition must be democratic: Maritime workers must have a say on the future
Workers’ must be represented on all key bodies driving the maritime industry’s transition to a zero-carbon future at international and national levels.
The transition must improve seafarers’ working lives: Protecting jobs, working conditions and safety
- Decarbonisation of the sector must be a just transition. Seafarers must be front and centre in the challenges that decarbonisation brings to retraining, health and safety, workforce development and for career pathways for seafarers.
- Commitment must be made to safe operationalcrewing levels, and where new technology is introduced, efficiency gains must be shared by the workforce through safer practices and working conditions for all those on board.
The transition must be safe: Support a health and safety-first approach
- Ensure that new technologies involving high levels of toxicity, such as ammonia propulsion systems, are thoroughly lab- and field-tested before being introduced into service. This includes consulting seafarers’ unions on the technology’s intended use and product life cycle.
- Recognise that an active voice for seafarers in health and safety management is the most effective guarantee of health and safety on board.
The transition must be equitable: Training must be fully funded for all seafarers
- Seafarers should not bear the costs of any retraining requirements. Training must be funded by governments, employers, or both.
- The new training system should be not-forprofit, taking a tripartite approach. Public, trade union, and employer-union partnered training institutions should be prioritised to ensure seafarers and fee-paying employers are not exploited by private operators.
The transition must be diverse: Promotion of women and young workers
- The transition to zero-carbon shipping must go hand in hand with an active policy to create good jobs for women and young seafarers.
- This must include measures that ensure women and young workers have full access to training and career development as part of a just transition.
The transition must be funded: Public regulation and funding must drive decarbonisation
- Decarbonisation of the shipping sector requires system-wide transformation. Governments must set regulations to align emissions targets with the Paris Agreement timetable and fund publicly owned infrastructure.
- International funding must enable countries in the Global South to transition their fleets and infrastructure, and invest in renewable energy.