Shipowners should be able to explain how much carbon they are generating so their customers can be incentivised to choose the best vessels as the industry moves towards meeting the IMO’s 2050 emissions targets, according to veteran shipping economist Martin Stopford.

Speaking at WISTA panel held during London International Shipping Week (LISW), Stopford said shipowners would then start to compete on how much carbon they generating.

“It would become part of the cargo contract,” he added. “That would incentivise everyone on the shipping side to use carbon efficient ships and the cargo owners to choose the shipowner which offered the best deal both in price and carbon emissions.”

Stopford said there are three strategies for meeting the IMO’s 2050 emissions target which will see shipping’s carbon emissions cut from 3 billion tonnes in a “do nothing” scenario to 450 million tonnes which is the minimum set by the IMO.

He listed these as moving less cargo, vessels slowing down and fine-tuning ships and coming up with low carbon solutions.

Stopford homed in on the first of these asking whether the industry needs to carrying as much cargo as it does.

He said seabourne trade has grown by 27% since the credit crisis in 2008 to 12 bn tonnes. Can we afford to ignore that escalating growth so it gets to 30bn tonnes in 2050? he asked.

He pointed out that 40% of the cargo carried is fossil fuels. “Are we really going to be carrying twice as much, three times as much fossil fuels in 2050. I don’t think so.”

“The right decisions are not just about technology and ship operation it is about common sense and management,” he added.

“I think if we made our customers aware of how much carbon they are using when they fix a ship they would start to think constructively,” Stopford said.

His said his vision is that a shipowners management team will be able to see the carbon footprint of their ships along with the carbon footprint per tonne-kilometre of cargo transported in real time.

This will allow them to make decisions to improve the vessels' performance in carbon generation and have something to show to their customers, Stopford said.

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