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.
Greece, a dominant player in shortsea shipping, as it is in oceangoing shipping, hosted the annual European Conference of the European Shortsea Network in Piraeus on Thursday. One of its panels tackled the issue of the new International Maritime Organization rules, which include the imposition of a 0.5 percent sulfur cap on the fuel used as of January 2020, to which the shortsea shipping industry has been slow to adapt.
“Liquefied natural gas is the mother of all alternative fuels,” stressed Panos Zachariadis, technical director at Atlantic Bulk Carriers and a member of the Greek delegation to IMO.
“Unlike cruise liners and tankers, which are making the switch to LNG propulsion with newbuilds, shortsea vessels are being left behind,” Alexander Prokopakis, chief executive at Probunkers, told Kathimerini. His company is 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 people’s health,” he explained.
Zachariadis appeared more skeptical over the application of LNG, as “its leaks come to 4-5 percent, and the methane emitted is 86 times more dangerous than the carbon dioxide that we are seeking to reduce,” he warned, expressing a preference for renewable energy sources, including nuclear power.
"How much CO2 will be emitted to build the new ships that meet the environmental rules?” he asked.
The industry also suffers from regulatory fragmentation, as 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.