2015 was an important year for sustainability. It marked the adoption of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 193 countries committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the aim of transforming the world for the better. These goals cover many aspects of life, including health and wellbeing, education, and equality. While the IMO is primarily concerned with SDG 14, “Life Below Water,” its work contributes to all 17 SDGs.
Global policy for a global industry
SDG 14 reads in full: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for development.” A large number of IMO activities have served this goal. For example, the Special Areas defined under MARPOL give sensitive marine environments additional protection against sea pollution and emissions. The Polar Code addresses environmental risks from ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic. It recommends using non-toxic biodegradable lubricants or water-based systems to lubricate oil-to-sea interfaces. Water-lubricated sterntube systems, such as SKF Simplex BlueRun, present a viable solution for compliance. But the most relevant topic at present is the BWM Convention, which aims to protect marine biodiversity against the risks posed by invasive species.
By enforcing the use of ballast water management systems on all ships, the IMO is taking a big step toward preventing the spread of harmful species such as the European green crab and infectious diseases like cholera. The organization is also preserving biodiversity by setting out guidelines to control biofouling, which is another main vector for transferring invasive aquatic species. Global partnerships, such as GloBallast and GloFouling, drive legal and policy reform with regard to preventing bioinvasions.
The IMO’s role is to create a level playing-field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security, and environmental performance.
Up in the air
SDG 13 relates to climate change in general, with a focus on greenhouse gas emissions. And the IMO is involved here too. The global shipping industry produces around 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions—about as much as Germany. Ship operators and shipowners are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint. In April 2018, IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The much-talked-about global sulfur cap comes into force at the start of 2020, and should help curb harmful emissions by requiring shipowners to use alternative fuels or exhaust gas cleaning systems. And by 2025, all new ships will be 30% more energy efficient than those built in 2014.
But lowering emissions is not just a question of engineering. How we use ships can improve their carbon footprint. Slow steaming, the practice of reducing ship speeds to cut costs or curb emissions, is once again in the focus. A recent study conducted on behalf of campaign group Seas at Risk suggests multiple benefits from a 20% reduction in speed. These include a 24% reduction in sulfur and nitrogen oxides and 66% less noise pollution.
Whatever the IMO decides with regard to a possible speed limit, only time will tell if the shipping industry can achieve its ambitious targets.
As an industrial company, SKF has a responsibility to minimize its environmental impact. Accordingly, the SKF Group works toward the SDGs on two fronts: by reducing its own environmental impact and by helping customers become more sustainable by providing green technology. For more information on SKF’s sustainable activities, read the Green Finance Framework—an initiative to finance investments that support eco-friendly objectives.