AS environmental regulations regarding emissions for the maritime sector continue to tighten, industry players will face uncertainties in achieving compliance and costs in a difficult market environment.
In particular, environmental regulations related to ballast water and air emissions are of key concern to the maritime industry as they become more defined and tightened, experts warn.
"Knowing the various regulations and their specific requirements together with the various agreed or proposed implementation dates and keeping abreast of the changes is in its own right a major challenge," said Steen Lund, regional manager, South-east Asia & Pacific, maritime, at DNV GL.
When considering regulations controlling air emissions, ship owners and operators need to consider global requirements from IMO, the European Union and the United States, as well as local port regulations.
The regulations do not only impact vessels' fuel and equipment but also trading routes as rules on low sulphur fuels are linked to Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) - these are sea areas where stricter controls have been established to minimise airborne emissions from ships. The number of ECAs is expected to increase. For instance, the Chinese Ministry of Transportation published new regulations in December 2015 designating parts of its coastal waters as ECA.
"We may expect more similar regulations on new ECAs in future. These all need to be complied with or planned for compliance and the possible change in the compliance requirements," said Mr Lund.
To meet stricter environmental requirements, the industry is looking to ramp up the use of cleaner alternative marine fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). However, this will require ports that are able to supply the fuel. Singapore recently embarked on LNG bunkering after the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) earlier this year handed out its first pair of licences for this activity to Pavilion Gas and a joint venture between Keppel Offshore & Marine and BG.
James Forsdyke, Asia marine sales & marketing manager at Lloyd's Register, said: "The adoption of LNG as fuel and other new fuels like methanol are examples of progress in lowering local air emissions. Additionally, and very importantly, the emergence of battery and hybrid power solutions can help ensure the potential for optimised performance."
Apart from new fuels, technology will play a big part in helping ship owners and operators. Upcoming regulations will require more data collection, as well as quality assurance and reporting. Experts say that this would be facilitated by advanced technologies that will improve ship connectivity.
However, complying with the new regulations is only one issue facing industry players. They also face the challenge of measuring and monitoring their compliance. There is also the need for training of personnel involved, including seafarers, as well as those who work at port facilities, classification societies and authorities to ensure consistency in the implementation of the regulations.
"A lack of training could result in inadequate implementation and controls, resulting in failure to achieve the objectives of the various environmental regulations," said Mr Lund.