Regulated Slow Steaming in Maritime Transport

This report studies the legal and technical constraints to possible mandatory speed regulation for ships. It also analyses the design of these regulations and the costs and benefits. The report shows that slow steaming has significant environmental benefits, and, in most scenarios, economic benefits as well. Regulated slow steaming is legally feasible and feasible to implement. 

Regulated slow steaming has a number of advantages: it is the most cost effective way to reduce ship emissions, and if implemented correctly, it is cost free to the shipping industry as a whole and entails marginal incremental logistic and supply chain costs to consumers; regulated slow steaming ensures that emissions in the shipping sector will be reduced, regardless of the fuel price and demand for shipping; a cap on speed would reduce the risk of an otherwise likely spike in emissions if ships were to speed up in response to a recovery in demand; a cap set today around current average ship speeds will have little impact on industry in the short term; and regulated slow steaming is relatively easy to monitor and enforce, and may have a lower administrative burden than some of the recently proposed market-based measures.

There are also disadvantages to regulated slow steaming: A restriction on speed reduces market flexibility; because of the perceived loss of market flexibility, regulated slow steaming appears to be widely opposed by shipping companies and shippers; it may not be cost-effective for all ships, on all routes or for all ship types; it reduces the cost-effectiveness of other means of fuel efficiency improvements and may result in less innovation; since it prescribes a specific measure it would run contrary to the goal-based approach to shipping environmental policy favoured in recent years; and while regulated slow steaming, if implemented carefully, need not impose additional costs on the shipping sector as a whole, neither would it raise revenues for use in fighting climate change in developing countries.
The report has been written by a team of experts from CE Delft, the University of Southampton and the ICCT. It was commissioned by Transport and Environment and Seas at Risk.

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