Seafarer union Nautilus welcomes the recent MEPC 80 meeting’s adoption of the 2023 IMO strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (pictured), which commits IMO member states to a goal of net zero by or around 2050. But it points out that there are clear safety implications to adopting new technologies before the safety case has been effectively proven – or before seafarers have received the necessary training and upskilling required to work with new machinery and systems.
The recent ITF report ‘Mapping a Maritime Just Transition’ has pointed to the fact that up to 750,000 seafarers will require additional training to handle alternative fuels and technologies by 2050, Nautilus notes. This will clearly be a herculean task, and a key constraint in implementing the necessary training programmes has been the lack of clarity around the decarbonisation trajectory of the maritime industry.
“Thanks to the July 2023 IMO agreement, the uncertainty around the level of ambition has now been removed,” the union says, “but we still do not know how the new targets will be achieved. Which new fuels will prevail, for example, and will radical alternatives like wind power break into the mainstream?”
As the industry grapples with these questions, it continues, one of the most positive outcomes of MEPC 80 from a seafarer perspective was the commitment to phasing out of GHG emissions in the context of a ‘just and equitable transition’. This follows on from the decision approved at the Maritime Safety Committee in June to develop a ‘safety regulatory framework to support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships using new technologies and alternative fuels’.
In practice, this means that the IMO will need to ensure that measures are put in place to ensure the safety of new fuels, and that necessary amendments are made to the global standards and training convention STCW. However, the industry cannot sit back and wait for regulatory change from the IMO. The targets have been set. It is now time for industry to ensure that seafarers are provided with the skills and training so they can safely deliver them.