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Rules of the Road: New guidelines for ship energy efficiency management plan


Rules of the Road: by Capt. Jake DesVergers

There are about 70,000 ships engaged in international trade, and this unique industry carries 90 percent of the world’s economic transactions. Sea transport has a justifiable image of conducting its operations in a manner that creates remarkably little impact on the global environment. Compliance with the MARPOL Convention and other IMO instruments, and the actions that many yachts take beyond the mandatory requirements, serve to further limit the impact.

Nevertheless, the enhancement of efficiencies can certainly reduce fuel consumption, save money and decrease environmental impacts for multiple entities. While the yield of individual measures may be small, the collective effect across the entire fleet will be significant. In global terms, it should be recognized that operational efficiencies delivered by a large number of ship operators would make an invaluable contribution to reducing global carbon emissions. The yachting industry will see considerable improvements as well.

At the 70th session of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) held in London, an important series of revised guidelines were adopted. These measures are geared to support the continued implementation of mandatory measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from international shipping.

The MEPC adopted a new set of guidelines intended to assist in the implementation of the Regulations on Energy Efficiency for Ships in MARPOL Annex VI. The new guidelines focus on the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).

All ships and yachts of 400 gross tonnage and greater must use a SEEMP. The purpose of the SEEMP is to establish a mechanism for a yacht to improve the energy efficiency of its operation. Preferably, the yacht-specific SEEMP is linked to a broader corporate energy management policy for the company that owns, operates or controls the yacht. No two yachts or owners are the same, and yachts — both private and commercial — operate under a wide range of conditions, so a generic off-the-shelf book will not satisfy the regulations.

The SEEMP is intended to be a tool to assist a yacht in managing the ongoing environmental performance of its operations. It is recommended that a yacht or its management company develop procedures to implement the plan in a manner that minimizes the onboard administrative burden.

With the new revisions adopted by the IMO, there are now two parts to a SEEMP. Part I provides a possible approach for monitoring ship and fleet efficiency performance over time, and some options to be considered when seeking to optimize the performance of the ship. Part II provides the methodologies that ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above should use to collect the data required pursuant to regulation 22A of MARPOL Annex VI. It also outlines the processes that the ship should use to report the data to the ship’s administration or any organization duly authorized by it.

The SEEMP seeks to improve a yacht’s energy efficiency through four steps: planning, implementation, monitoring, and self-evaluation and improvement. These components play a critical role in the continuous cycle to improve energy management. Goals can be achieved through a combination of structural and operational actions, including improved voyage planning, weather routing, optimized speed, consistent shaft power, enhanced use of rudder and heading control systems (autopilots), and hull maintenance.

Because this regulation was written to cover any and every vessel type on the water, the particular trade a ship is engaged in will determine the plan of action and feasibility for some of the measures. For obvious reasons, yachts are likely to choose different methods of carbon reductions when compared with conventional merchant ships, which are the primary target of this directive. As a result, it is likely that the pathway to the most efficient combination of measures will be unique to each yacht, captain and owner.

However, take notice — this regulation is in effect and must be continually implemented. It is not an overnight project or something that can be resolved with a phone call or search on the internet. Regular review is imperative to ensure that the process is correctly maintained. For additional guidance, it is recommended that the yacht contact its flag state, classification society and/or manager. Many of these sources can provide expert advice on how to get started and what exactly is required for each yacht.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau ( Comments are welcome below.

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