What exactly is a Green Ship?

Maybe a better question here is, what is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a Green Ship? Is it the colour, is it a ship made out of recyclable materials or a ship that operates sustainable reducing its impact on the environment? I would say all of the above could be the correct answer.

Ships and shipping in general do not have the best reputation when in comes to protecting the environment. For someone who has worked in the industry for the past 11 years I can tell you that there are many misconceptions out there and mostly they are due to lack on information.

Yes, we all heard about ships treating their waste water but only a few of us know exactly how that is being done. The media does not promote the good stories and how far the shipping industry has gotten in transforming the ships into “green ships”. The industry is not perfect but neither is any other land based industry.

Who decides if a ship can be called a green ship?

In the last years there have been several certificates and awards ships can achieve to attest the fact that they are Green. Most of them are voluntary but there are perks that come along with them. Different states/ports have different ways of calculating emissions or efficiency and based on a certain score, the ships can receive port discounts either at docking fees or waste recycling. One example of these scores is ESI (Environmental Ship Index). The better the score, the Greener the ship.

The Green Award is another tool used to stimulate ships in becoming more environmental friendly and sustainable. The program has been around for quite some time and has proven to be a success. Not only that it supports a cleaner environment but same as with ESI, ship owners get discounts from the participating ports. Plus, they also get to show off with title after all and use it when doing business.

What is Green Ship recycling?

Again this can be looked at in multiple ways: is the ship designed to be safe for recycling (does not pose a hazard to the environment and to the people breaking it down) or is the scrap yard capable to dismantle a ship in such was that it wouldn’t create any pollution or endanger the health and safety of the workers or the near by communities.

The “International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships” (The Hong Kong Convention) was established by IMO (International Maritime Organisation) in 2009 and aims to control and regulate the vessel’s entire life from design to recycling but also the way the shipyards operates and their reporting systems. This Convention is not yet in force however the EU is leading the way with Regulation EU 1257/2013.

What’s important and current to say for this year is that the EU Regulation is requiring that all ships, either with EU flags or just calling in EU ports, have a Class approved “Inventory of Hazardous Materials” (IHM Part 1) available onboard. This deadline is currently 31 December 2020 although talks are in place due to the restrictions created by the Covid-19 worldwide. The latest we know is that on 16 October a notice was adopted by the Commission providing guideline on the enforcement of obligations relating to the Inventory of Hazardous Materials in view of the Covid-19 challenges. While it is not an extension it does give room for negotiations for those who can not meat the deadline.

To conclude..

I think we can all agree that a Green Ship definition is hard to establish and can mean several things at once.

From my personal point a view, a Green Ship is one that invests in the most environmental friendly technology, a ship that has an environmental culture among the crew and management, that is proactive enough to reduce any unwanted incidents or spills and choses it’s business partners according to its principles.

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