Pollution predictions slashed as shipping growth slows


Researchers have cut shipping emissions forecasts because of new data highlighting the recent global slowdown in marine transport.

CE Delft now predicts that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships will grow by 20% to 120% between 2012 and 2050. In the IMO’s Third Greenhouse Gas Study, published in 2014, the researchers slated emissions to grow by 50% to 250%.

“The increase in transport work has been lower in recent years than before,” the authors wrote. “As a result, projected transport work by 2050 is approximately 20% lower in the current study.”

Policy input

Lobbyists are now pushing for the forecasts to be used in planning a global emissions strategy.

Ship owners’ association BIMCO sponsored the study and presented it at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in July. There, the committee worked towards adopting a GHG reduction programme by April 2018.

BIMCO noted in its submission: “The agreed roadmap to develop a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships is calling for input of updated emission projections to inform the deliberations.”

Paris target

Regulators must weigh the latest figures because they reflect the targets of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, BIMCO added.

Only one scenario from the earlier study was compatible with the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming under 2˚C higher than pre-industrial levels. The new study includes three projected scenarios that meet the target.

“The update is relevant because the policy context has changed since the 2014 study was presented,” BIMCO wrote.

Table: CO2 emissions in three 1.6°C scenarios (Mtonnes)




Middle of the road




Ship type 2012
Dry bulk 170 540 270 270
Liquid bulk 230 320 200 190
Container 200 610 310 310
Other unitized 140 240 120 120
Other 80 70 70 70
Total 810 1.77 970 960