Branson-Backed NGO Targets Surge in Ports Fighting CO2

A nonprofit led by billionaire Richard Branson, the U.K.’s fourth-richest person, said the number of sea ports using ship-evaluation systems to combat carbon emissions will rise as much as fivefold next year as momentum gathers to improve the industry’s fuel efficiency.

As many as 10 ports worldwide will next year cut fees for vessels designed and maintained to minimize fuel consumption, compared with two now, Victoria Stulgis a Oxford, U.K.-based spokeswoman for Carbon War Room, a nonprofit rating ship efficiency, said by phone yesterday. Rotterdam, Europe’s largest, will start looking at how it can encourage more efficient vessels, the port said in a statement today.

“That will speed up the move from shippers to try to move towards clean ships rather than dirty ships,” Branson, a Carbon War Room founder, said by phone Sept. 16. “It’s just a cog in the wheel to sorting out the much bigger problem of the environmental damage from carbon.”

Shipping accounted for 2.7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2007, according to the most recent estimates from the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations’ shipping agency. The pollutant can contribute to climate change, it says. Branson is also the founder of the Virgin Atlantic airline. Air transport is responsible for 2 percent global manmade carbon emissions, according to the International Air Transport Association’s website.

Port Metro, Vancouver and the Prince Rupert Port Authority in Canada use a system that ranks 60,000 vessels in the merchant fleet an A-to-G scale for fuel efficiency. Ships rated A get the biggest discounts on port fees. Metro gave $1.1 million in discounts last year, while Prince Rupert budgeted for $100,000 this year, Stulgis said.

Oxide Emissions

Rotterdam already discounts port fees to ships which emit low levels of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. Its reductions for those were valued at 1.8 million euros ($2.3 million) in 2013. The port is researching how to extend the port-fee discount program to low-carbon emitting ships, it said in today’s statement.

The ship efficiency data rankings were developed by RightShip and the Carbon War Room, Stulgis said. RightShip, a marine and environmental risk management system, owns and manages the data.

“The adoption of the War Room’s A-G rating by Rotterdam and more of the world’s top 100 ports would create an incentive market for carbon efficient ships worth over $100 million to shipowners,” Branson said.

Rotterdam plans to discuss carbon-reduction policies with other northwest European ports including Antwerp, Hamburg and Amsterdam.

“If you compete on environment, then the problem will go to another port,” Tie Schellekens, a spokesman for the port, said by phone. “We have to do this together and not on our own.”

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