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Alan McKinnon – Professor of Logistics

THE 
LOGISTICS BLOG

Current issues in logistics and transport

Happy Birthday IMO

In 1948 the newly-founded United Nations decided to set up an organization to regulate international shipping. Although the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was not actually established until 1958, it is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. To mark the event the IMO held a Forum at its headquarters in London on ‘World Maritime Day’ to discuss its future role in the light of wider developments in the global shipping industry. I had the honour of being one of the seven panellists invited to debate the subject before an audience of around 450, comprising representatives of many of the IMO’s 174 member states and specialists from a range of other maritime-related bodies. Here are a few of the points that I made and several others I would have liked to make had the opportunity arisen.

First, in response to a question about how IMO could stimulate international trade, I argued, perhaps rather mischievously, that this is not its role. It is essentially a regulatory organization which facilitates trade and ensures that high safety and environmental standards are maintained in the movement of people and goods by sea. It should leave the job of promoting international trade to the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the IMF etc. Besides, with maritime tonne-kms forecast to grow three-fold by 2050 on a business-as-usual basis, there doesn’t seem to be much need for more ‘stimulation’.

Reinforcing the upward trend in international shipping would also make it harder for the IMO to achieve its target of cutting GHG emissions from shipping by 50% by 2050 against a 2008 baseline. This target was agreed recently by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). The IMO’s own forecasts of maritime traffic growth suggest that by 2050 the carbon intensity of international shipping will have to drop by 70% to meet this target. Piling on more traffic growth will simply make this already very formidable carbon intensity challenge all the more challenging. One of the other panellists expressed confidence in the shipping industry eventually becoming carbon neutral. A comprehensive review of decarbonisation options for the maritime sector published last year by Bouman et al suggests that this is a pipe dream, unless one resorts, as in the aviation sector, to extensive carbon offsetting – a marine equivalent of CORSIA.

Partly in response to audience and online questions, our panel also explored the case for taking a broader end-to-end supply chain view of maritime decarbonisation. While the IMO’s remit has traditionally focused its attention on the vessels, it also needs to recognise the inter-relationship between shipping, port and hinterland transport emissions. As the only logistics specialist on the stage I naturally emphasised the importance of understanding how changes in global logistics systems and supply chains would influence the future carbon intensity of shipping. After all, one of the main decarbonising forces in the maritime sector over the past decade has been slow steaming, a practice that has required significant logistical adjustment on the part of shippers.

The IMO has four degrees of separation from the shipper community. It ‘outsources’ the implementation of its conventions to the governments of its member states. The IMO rules which national governments then impose and enforce impact directly on the ship operators, with their customers, the shippers, affected indirectly. The IMO is at the heart of a maritime regulatory ecosystem comprising member states, classification societies, P&I clubs etc which by all accounts functions very effectively. In developing multi-stakeholder initiatives to address the challenges of the next 70 years, such as decarbonisation, adaptation to climate change, opening of Polar shipping routes and vessel automation, it may have to strengthen its links with other key players across the wider maritime world, including not only the shippers, but also the port operators, freight forwarders, ship brokers and leasing companies, logistics service providers and potential ‘market disruptors’ like Amazon.

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© Professor Alan McKinnon 2018

Kuehne Logistics University
Hamburg
Germany

contactme@alanmckinnon.co.uk

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© Professor Alan McKinnon 2018

 

Kuehne Logistics University
Hamburg
Germany

 

contactme@alanmckinnon.co.uk

 

Contact me

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Reset cookies

 
Web design by Wordspree