Marshall Islands offer plan to green vast shipping fleet

Foreign minister says UN leadership needed to ensure all flagged carriers adopt tougher carbon cutting regulations

(Pic: Tyler/Flickr)

(Pic: Tyler/Flickr)

By Ed King

The Marshall Islands is exploring ways to make the vast fleet of vessels that carry its flag adopt greener technologies and emit lower levels of greenhouse gases.

In a statement foreign minister Tony de Brum said he backed a new target to curb pollution from shipping, which is responsible for 3% of global emissions.

And he said the Marshall Islands also wanted ships registered in Majuro, some 3,400 vessels totaling 118 million gross tonnes, to invest in cleaner operating measures.

“We are the first country in the Pacific to set a transport efficiency target for ourselves – a 20% cut in the use of fossil fuels for domestic transport by 2020, and we are exploring other ways to green our international registry,” he said.

“We are an island nation and shipping is one of our lifelines – we cannot survive without it.  At the same time, carbon emissions, including those from shipping, pose an existential threat to our people and our country.”

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Under a 1997 UN climate deal, only industrialised countries had to curb emissions. Since then, the shipping industry has largely resisted pressure to clean up its act.

In the absence of plans to curb emissions, they could rise by up to 250% by 2050, according to the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The Marshalls are home to the third largest trade fleet in the world, behind Panama and Liberia, and ahead of Hong Kong and Singapore.

Few vessels dock in the Pacific Islands but the owners – who pay a fee to fly the flag – avoid income taxes that are common in other parts of the world.

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In return, the Marshall Islands has nominal jurisdiction over the ships and is responsible for inspecting them.

De Brum called on the IMO to put global pressure on owners to accept tougher standards.

Without this ships could “jump easily from flag to flag” he said, undermining global efforts to secure a climate pact, due to be finalised in Paris in December.

“With a strong wind blowing in the climate action sails en route to Paris, the IMO must move to set a sector-wide international shipping emissions target now,” he said.

Well known vessels registered in Majuro, the Marshalls capitol included the BP Deepwater Horizon rig, which sank in 2010 after an onboard explosion, causing the biggest US oil spill in history.

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