IPCC report: What does it mean and why is it important to the shipping industry?

One of the most significant reports to date on rising temperatures was published two weeks ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the report, the next few years “are probably the most important in our history”, and governments across the globe must make “rapid, far-reaching changes” to avoid disastrous fallout from global warming.

The report examines the impact of global warming at a temperature of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, “in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty”. It compares allowing temperatures to rise towards 2°C above pre-industrial times, or keeping them nearer to 1.5°C, and claims that we are on track to surpass a temperature increase of over 3°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

“Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C.” 

Once the 2°C temperature increase is reached:
• There will be almost no coral reefs left
• The Arctic will be completely devoid of ice at least once a decade, contributing to a massive rise in sea levels
• Extinction rates, particularly in marine ecosystems, will rise at a steeper rate

Fossil fuels- the main culprit

Our burning of fossil fuels is the largest source of CO2 emissions, the leading pollutant contributing to the Earth’s warming.
According to the IPCC’s report, CO2 emissions must be halved by 2030 to stop the Earth’s warming exceeding 1.5°C. To hit this target, vast amounts of CO2 will have to be sucked out of the atmosphere using carbon capture technologies, which are currently in their infancy. In the meantime, CO2 emission reduction reduction requires a drastic shift towards renewable energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

The shipping industry

“Over 90% of world trade is carried across the world’s oceans by some 90,000 marine vessels” says Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation and advocacy organisation. 

Between 2-3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions can be credited to the CO2 emissions from ships.
“If global shipping were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Only the United States, China, Russia, India and Japan emit more carbon dioxide than the world’s shipping fleet.”

Despite these statistics, there is hope for the environmentally friendly future of the shipping industry. Some simple recommendations are as follows:
• Speed reductions
• Weather routing
• Fuel switching
• Specialised hull coatings

What has been done so far? 

Last year, the EU Commission called for a global approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.
As a first step, large ships using EU ports have been, from the beginning of 2018, required to report their verified annual emissions and other relevant information in line with the EU Monitoring Reporting and verification (MRV) regulation.


This new requirement is step one in the EU’s current strategy, which aside from monitoring, reporting and verifying CO2 emissions, also includes:
• Greenhouse gas reduction targets for the maritime transport sector
• Further measures, including market-based measures, in the medium to long term.


In April 2018, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) announced that member state delegates pledged to cut the shipping sector’s overall CO2 output by 50% by 2050, and begin working on this immediately, while pursuing efforts to phase out CO2 emissions entirely in the future.
Building on this, the IMO has already started with the IMO-DCS regulation which comes into force on 1st January 2019 for merchant vessels of equal to or greater than 5000gt trading internationally.
The response to this announcement has been mixed, with some calling the announcement a good start, but other organisations such as Greenpeace claiming that the initial strategy was “lacking in substance”.

Case study: Pole Star’s Environmental Vessel Efficiency (EVE)

"Pole Star has been serving the shipping & offshore sector for 20 years, providing ship tracking and monitoring services to support multiple regulatory safety and security requirements. In our role as the self-proclaimed digital eyes and ears of the sea - we have become a trusted party to our list of over 1200 clients. As such, we understand the commercial pressures that regulatory enforcement brings. Our technology has always connected the ship to the shore, so with the emergence of both the EU MRV and IMO DCS regulations, it became an obvious extension for us to develop a cost-effective solution for our clients’ environmental compliance needs.

EVE ensures MRV and DCS compliance, but will also provide crucial vessel / fuel performance data, allowing fleet benchmarking, operational KPIs, charter-party compliance, FIFO analysis, and of course optimisation, leading to the more efficient use of bunkers and lower comparable emissions.

As we head towards the 2020 global sulphur cap with predicted substantial increases in bunker costs, EVE becomes even more important for those shipping companies that don’t have the internal IT capability to develop and maintain their own systems, or simply wish to outsource the activity to obtain better long-term value."

Julian Longson, Managing Director, Pole Star

The publication of the IPCC’s report comes at a time when shipping is experiencing challenging operating conditions, with industry-wide low appetite for investment, especially considering the capital intensive nature of building, running and retrofitting ships.

With this in mind, Pole Star’s EVE solution provides a zero capex route for shipping customers to satisfy new environmental legislation; enabling ship owners to obtain greater transparency on their vessels’ operation and savings in a cost effective manner.