The world’s shipping watchdog should impose a speed limit on commercial vessels to cut emissions and protect the environment, more than 100 maritime industry chief executives have said.  In a letter to the International Maritime Organisation, a UN agency, the executives said shipping had an “urgent need” to address global temperature rises and that limiting vessels’ speeds could help.  In the wake of the global financial crisis, ships reduced their speed because of decreased trade – known as “slow steaming” – which had the side effect of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as ships burnt less fuel.

However, the letter, which came ahead of IMO negotiations on environmental regulation in London next week, warned “recent studies also suggest that ships are speeding up again as global demand recovers”.  “Should this trend continue, any GHG gains from slow steaming over recent years will disappear,” it added.

In April 2018, the IMO set a target for GHG emissions from international shipping to peak as soon as possible and then to be reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared with 2008. It has also adopted a limit on the level of sulfur in ships’ fuel oil from 3.5  to 0.5 percent from January 1, 2020.

The signatories said their preference was for container ships to have a maximum speed averaged across a year, allowing exporters of perishable goods to travel faster during peak seasons, while other ships should have a fixed maximum at all times.