Uncertainty over Nigeria’s transition to IMO green shipping

Stakeholders in the maritime sector have expressed divergent views on Nigeria’s adoption and implementation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) net zero by 2050.

The stakeholders said Africa’s maritime sector is bound to be affected by the IMO targets, especially with the key concerns of the availability, quality and supply of low Sulphur fuel and whether refineries would be able to meet new demands.

Speaking at the World Maritime Day (WMD) celebration in Lagos, with the theme: ‘New Technologies for Greener Shipping’, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Emmanuel Jime, expressed concerns about the cost implications of transitioning to green ships and other eco-friendly operations in the maritime sector as proposed by IMO to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

He said the shipping industry is an important economic sector that contributes more than 80 per cent to global trade and currently accounts for between two and three per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and could be 17 per cent by 2050 if left unregulated.

Jime said this prompted the introduction of the 0.5 per cent sulphur cap by the IMO in a bid to deal with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from ships, which has given rise to concerns on how vessels can comply and how non-compliance will be dealt with around the world.

He said ships are crucial to the global economy as over 85 per cent of all the goods and services that enter Nigeria come via the seaports, hence, any transition to greener fuels could be expensive and consumers will most likely be at the receiving end due to the huge technological advancement that is required to adapt to this change.

Jime, however, expressed optimism that the Council will be able to ensure that the anticipated additional costs will be evenly distributed among operators at the ports.

“The time has come more than ever before to have concerted and deliberate efforts of all concerned authorities towards adopting measures, not only to implement, but also to put in place accompanying measures to cushion the effects of this change. Africa’s maritime sector is bound to be affected by the IMO targets and one of the key concerns of African states is the availability, quality and supply of low Sulphur fuel and whether refineries would be able to meet new demands.

“One of the challenges is that Africa’s maritime sector is still developing and will require resources and capacity-building to strengthen institutions, which are responsible for incorporating international conventions into local law, implementing the legislation and policing the environmental legislation.

“At NSC, we are concerned that the technologies required for greener shipping and the innovations would come with cost implications. There is an advantage to moving and being consistent with the demand of climate change, but embedded in this is the issue of cost. What we intend to do, as a port economic regulator, is to ensure that when this cost comes, there is a sharing formula that makes it proportionate so that shipping companies and shippers share the costs that will arise as a result of the transition,” he said.

He also noted that Nigeria should not be left behind in the innovative changes concerning low sulphur fuels, adding that the IMO deadlines create ample time for nations to respond to the changes gradually.

“Nigeria has to respond to these changes but we will have to take it one step at a time because we understand the need for this change. We can’t say that we wouldn’t comply because of our immediate constraints,” Jime added.

The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, said a greener and sustainable maritime industry is achievable through partnership and a determination to achieve synergy in the formulation and implementation of a roadmap for the maritime sector in Nigeria.

Sambo stated that as the world transits to higher levels of artificial intelligence and green technology, the need for a new technology to drive the maritime sector has not only become necessary, but imperative as a nation.

“As a country, we must not lose out on the future race, which will require a workforce of new skills and competencies of maritime institutions particularly the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron and the Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology to begin to recalibrate the curricular to address these requirements of the future,” he said.

Sambo stated that commitment to a greener future in the maritime industry comes with inputs from government and the private sector, with the government already putting in place policies and an enabling environment.

He said one of such policies is the recent inauguration of the National Council on Climate to coordinate the implementation of sectoral targets for the regulation of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, to formulate appropriate policies toward green growth and sustainable economic growth of the country.

The Minister called on the private sector to invest in more modern platforms and assets that will meet the emission level of the future, adding that in line with this, he would seek the actualistion of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, which he believes will facilitate the acquisition of newer vessels for indigenous operators.

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani said there is a need to support a green transition of the maritime sector into a sustainable future through the promotion of inclusive innovation and uptake of emerging technologies, especially in the context of Developing Countries, and in particular, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, in declaring the session open noted that the theme is in tandem with government’s commitment toward net zero GHG emissions by 2050.

According to him, part of the commitment includes moving within the next 15 years from fossil to renewables, saying there is no better industry to propagate this than the Federal Ministry of Transportation and its agencies.

The Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, stated that a survey showed that the shipping industry consumes 300 million tonnes of fuel every year, thereby releasing about three per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere.

According to him, the shipping sector can play a substantial and leading role by embracing new technologies through the acquisition of green ships that are more efficient, consume less energy and cuts down on sulphur emissions.