Ships can cut CO2 by slowing down: study

LONDON (Reuters) - Merchant ships can cut their carbon emissions by as much as 30 percent over the next three years by traveling more slowly, a Brussels-based environmental group said on Wednesday.

A crew member stands on deck of the Cambodian-flagged merchant marine ship 'Brustel' which is at quayside in the port of La Rochelle, western France, on September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

The shipping sector accounts for nearly 3 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and pressure has grown for cuts.

A study commissioned by Seas at Risk found that by slow steaming, vessels can reduce their fuel consumption and cut CO2.

The study, conducted by Dutch consultancy group CE Delft, showed current oversupply in the shipping industry provided opportunities for ships to slow down.

“From 2010 through 2012, emission reductions in the order of 30 percent are maximally achievable without the need for retrofitting slow-steaming equipment,” the study said.

Seas at Risk said the study evaluated tankers, container ships and bulk carriers.

“The emission reductions are most pronounced in the case of bulk carriers circa 40 percent,” it said.

Seas at Risk said the sector has had to deal with oversupply and a global economic downturn, which has hit shipping hard.

“There are several ways in which the industry can deal with the oversupply of ships. One is to decrease the amount of cargo carried per ship, another is to idle ships, and a third is to sail at lower speeds,” it said.

“The latter option has the advantage that fuel is saved and emissions are reduced.”

The study was presented at a meeting this week of United Nations shipping agency the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which will examine measures aimed at cutting CO2.

“The industry has to some extent already started slow steaming, but the potential for GHG (greenhouse gas) emission reductions is huge,” John Maggs, policy advisor with Seas At Risk, said.

“The development of measures to encourage and facilitate the shift should be a priority for the IMO.”

Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Amanda Cooper