A new regulation requiring the gross mass of a container to be verified before it is loaded onto a ship, which entered into force on July 1, will assist in ensuring that the millions of containers carried on ships each year are optimally stowed, thereby helping to prevent container stacks collapsing and containers being lost overboard, and the associated injury and loss of life.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) began to develop measures to prevent the loss of containers in 2011, in response to concerns expressed by Member States and the shipping industry following a number of incidents involving loss of containers and container ships.
The aim was to develop further measures to complement the existing provisions aimed at the stability and safe operation of ships, including the safe packing, handling and transport of containers.
In light of the amendments to SOLAS regulation VI/2, World Maritime News turned to the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) to find out more on the effects of the new rules.
As it has been monitoring the implementation of the amended SOLAS in the different Member States, ESPO believes that “the verification of container weight may indeed enhance maritime safety.” Although this is mainly an issue between shippers and carriers, the new rules “could have a significant impact on terminal operators and ports,” through refused containers, weighing in ports causing costs and delays, according to ESPO.
“There are significant concerns over the current lack of clarity on how implementation of the new rules is made in each port/country. In addition , shippers/freight forwarders have to deal with different solutions in each port, such as timing and electronic message to deliver the VGM,” ESPO said.
Furthermore, ESPO said that its main concern is to ensure that the implementation of the new legal requirements does not create competition distortion through a patchwork of varying national measures; Member States should pursue a coordinated European approach, taking into consideration the national guidelines of other Member States when deciding on national rules.
“Supply chain actors and national authorities should work towards commonly accepted guidelines in order to minimise distortion of competition and ensure smooth functioning of the logistics chains,” ESPO said.
Regarding innovations to secure further improvement of air quality in ports, ESPO said that it currently considers LNG as the most promising and holistic medium term solution to tackle the ship exhaust emissions issue, while other alternative fuels, such as methanol, appear also to have such good potential.
There are various ongoing port projects targeting the development of LNG bunkering facilities in ports. The latest ESPO/EcoPorts environmental review 2016 highlighted that one out of 5 European ports could already today make the necessary arrangements upon request for LNG bunkering (in most cases though by trucks).
It should be noticed however that the currently low oil prices make the business case of LNG bunkering more challenging and have an impact on the pace of development of LNG projects in ports.
As LNG is becoming ever more popular among industry stakeholders as marine fuel, LNG bunkering and cold-ironing services in ports are becoming more popular.
According to the ESPO/EcoPorts environmental review 2016, one out of five European ports provides Onshore Power Supply (OPS) for sea going commercial vessels at least at one of its berths.
ESPO said that, although it actively promotes OPS as one of the solutions for improving local air quality, it is not a “one size fits all” type of solution that can be applicable in a sustainable way to all ports and types of traffic.
In an effort to further reduce the carbon footprint, in December 2015, ESPO joined the Think Climate coalition under the umbrella of PIANC.
“Through an unprecedented collaboration, the partners in PIANC’s Think Climate coalition have committed to work together to help the inland and maritime navigation infrastructure sector respond to climate change.”
By furthering understanding, providing targeted technical support, and building capacity, the coalition’s ‘Navigating a Changing Climate’ initiative will encourage the owners, operators and users of waterborne transport infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shift to low carbon maritime and inland navigation infrastructure, and to act urgently to strengthen resilience and improve preparedness to adapt to the changing climate.
Further to this, ESPO has been long supporting the World Ports Climate Initiative (WPCI) under the umbrella of IAPH. Various concrete projects targeting climate change and air quality have been developed under this framework, always with a dominant participation of the European ports.
World Maritime News Staff; Image Courtesy: ESPO