It’s rare to see a blockbuster movie these days that doesn’t spend at least some of its time setting up a sequel, reassuring audiences that although the action is over for now, they won’t have to wait long for more. It’s a similar feeling watching the results of MEPC71 (the 71st Marine Environment Protection Committee) come in. The main dramatic question, of whether the installation of systems to meet compliance with Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) can be delayed, has been resolved. Shipowners get a reprieve of two years shifting the treatment compliance deadline to September 8th 2019. The majority of existing ships will now have to retrofit systems by their first IOPP (International Oil Pollution Prevention Certificate) certification renewal after that date, essentially pushing the installation timeframe up to 8th September 2024. However, the D-1 discharge standard and a documented BWMC plan must be in place by 8th September 2017, when the convention will enter into force.

As the dust settles on the BWMC, the stage is set for a new challenge: decarbonisation. The foundation has been laid for a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategy, aiming for adoption of an interim strategy at MEPC72 in April next year. A seven-step outline has been agreed, but will be further discussed in an inter-sessional working group in October. As yet the plan is light on detail or specific targets. An ambitious commitment proposed by the Bahamas for the decarbonisation of shipping by the second half of the 21st century was popular, but found opposition from Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Reaction to the strategy has therefore been mixed. The International Chamber of Shipping has praised the move, and noted that “there is generally willingness on all sides to give [the industry’s specific proposals] further consideration at the next IMO working group on the strategy in October.”

Others, however, were less enthusiastic. A proposal for shipping to adopt climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement gained enthusiastic support from several delegates, but did not find a consensus, disappointing the NGOs and delegations from Pacific nations who had advocated for their immediate adoption. The NGO Transport & Environment remarked that “a sense of urgency was lacking.”

We now enter a crucial few months for the decarbonisation strategy. It will be imperative, in the run-up to April, to demonstrate what solutions are available to the industry, and to show that they are practically, and economically feasible.

It has long been AkzoNobel’s goal to work ahead of regulation in the field of marine coatings. We were the first major coatings supplier to stop the manufacture of TBT-containing antifoulings and coal tar based epoxies, the first to introduce non-toxic foul release coatings, and now we’re leading the way on low volatile organic compound (VOC) products. As evidenced by a commitment to being carbon-neutral by 2050, decarbonisation is no different.

As all ships must be coated, marine coatings have an integral role to play in reducing GHG emissions. Ship owners and operators using AkzoNobel’s Intersleek® range of biocide-free marine coatings, for example, have achieved fuel savings worth an estimated combined total of $3 billion since the technology was first introduced 21 years ago – saving 32 million tons of CO2. If ships didn’t use fouling control coatings, fuel consumption could be increased by as much as 40%, with current fuel use consequently rising by 140 million tonnes per year to a total of almost 500 million tonnes per year.


We know, however, that the push for decarbonisation must also compete with the economic realities of the shipping industry – and this means convincing a cash-strapped market that decarbonisation not only makes environmental, but economic sense. This was the thinking behind carbon credits – AkzoNobel’s industry-first scheme that rewards owners who choose to use a biocide-free foul release coating such as Intersleek1100SR by awarding them carbon credits for each tonne of carbon saved, which can then be traded or used to offset emissions in other parts of their business. This effectively rewards owners twice for choosing eco-efficient coatings; once through the reduced fuel costs, and once when the credits are awarded.

Incentives such as these, however, do not work in a vacuum. Coatings choice is a big decision, with broad ramifications, and an often-bewildering array of variables at play. Trust and clarity is vital if owners and operators are to invest in sustainable coatings, and this requires accurate prediction and verification of performance. This is the thinking behind AkzoNobel’s Digital Voyage, a programme designed to put our coatings expertise at the fingertips of the industry, giving them what they need to make smarter decisions. The cornerstone is Intertrac Vision, an industry-first Big Data tool that predicts the carbon and fuel savings of any coating, considering a vessel’s unique operating profile. We are currently trialling Intertrac Perform – a software tool that will complete the circle by validating this performance according to the international standard ISO 19030. This will give decision-makers the insight they need to choose coatings that will save them money, and reduce emissions.

Whatever form the IMO’s plan takes in April next year, it will remain the duty of the coatings industry to create products that save money for owners and operators, and protect the environment. We believe that we have to challenge ourselves to stay at the leading edge of sustainability, ahead of regulation. We have products and systems for shipowners and operators to create a cleaner, more economical, lower-carbon future. We call upon all stakeholders to implement these proven solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create cleaner oceans.


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