Monday, November 22, 2021

Ocean Rebellion at the IMO - No, Not a Rock Group - a Protest

Climate Activists Back to Complain About Pollution Again
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – One year on climate activists from the Ocean Rebellion group returned to the offices in London of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) after torching a boat at the same location then in protest to what the objectors perceived as total disregard for the Paris Agreement by the shipping industry.

Today (22 November) the same group (after some strange raving about ‘dirty money’) made a return to complain that the shipping industry needs to move away from its dependence on fossil fuels. Unfortunately the group seems to have no comprehension with what is currently happening within the industry, or the number of initiatives presently under way to solve this very problem. Ocean Rebellion’s Sophie Miller said:

“Our demand is simple: Get Ships Off Fossil Fuels, to stop climate breakdown, prevent repeated negligent fossil fuel oil spills including in the Arctic, and to protect people's livelihoods, and our precious marine environments. The IMO has a chance to turn things around. To make a real difference not just to marine life but to our survival as a species on this planet. But it needs to step up now. To get out of bed with the fossil fuel industry and stand up for the environment.”

Unfortunately, although you would be hard pushed to find any in the industry to disagree with this, simple is the one thing this problem is not. Ms Miller and her cohorts do not offer any realistic immediate solution and plainly has no idea of the millions of pounds currently being spent by the largest shipping lines to find a workable long term way of achieving those ambitions at a stroke.

The group points out that ocean shipping currently produces anywhere up to one billion tonnes of CO2 per year, but then goes on to state that 80% of all global trade is carried by ships, probably a substantial underestimate in fact. One therefore would expect such objections to be accompanied by a range of solutions but none seem to be forthcoming, how else for example will those goods move?

Should consumers expect not to have the range of items they now have access to? What are the alternative power sources such as Ocean Rebellion lining up to replace those currently in use? The group’s obvious naivety does nothing to support what all agree (except perhaps the oil producers) is an urgent and vital cause.

Perhaps Ocean Rebellion might take time to study the nuances of the problem, exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) or ‘scrubbers’ for example. The Panama Canal long ago banned the use of open loop scrubbers, should this be mandatory worldwide? Indeed how quickly can any such devices be phased out, followed by closed loop technology and systems using methane, hydrogen or ammonia introduced to replace the current low sulphur oil?

The protest at the IMO was well timed to coincide with the first day of a week-long report from the IMO’s own Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 10), held on behalf of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). We ourselves have often complained at the tardiness of IMO action on similar issues but have to accept that, as with any democratic organisation, you must get the bulk of participants onside and the IMO consists of shipping interests from 175 member states, all with vested interests.

The other question the protestors seem short of answers on is what happens to the tens of millions of tonnes of vessels that serve the world population? Such vessels have lives stretching into decades and switching all to whatever power source Ocean Rebellion has in mind is a question they fail currently to answer. Spokesperson Andrew Darnton observed:

”Ocean Rebellion has just returned from COP where our message was we can’t save the climate without saving the oceans. We are coming to the IMO to say that they have to start cutting carbon in order to have any chance of preventing runaway climate change. Last time IMO discussed this, they decided to do nothing. Shipping must take urgent action if we are to have any chance of staying within 1.5 degrees.”

By doing nothing one must assume then that Mr Darnton and his colleagues are ignorant of the mandatory sulphur cap which the IMO eventually passed successfully long before COP26 became flavour of the month. Perhaps a little more cooperation with those companies actually affected would benefit both shipping lines and objectors alike.

Such objections as the group raises are not falling on deaf ears but unless you abandon your fossil fuelled heating, only eat food grown within a limited radius and never order anything online, do you really have the right to criticise those companies who are investing in wind assisted voyages, electric ferries charged by solar and wind power and a vast range of gas powered ocean going vessels in a bid to negate emissions as quickly as possible?

Photo: The protest at the IMO. Image credit Guy Reece.