Ships at sea

IMO agrees to energy label for shipping

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved the proposal to introduce an energy label for shipping. This system should lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

European countries, in particular, are critical of the system because, in their view, it is too non-committal and ineffective. Climate organisations such as Transport and Environment see nothing in it and state that the plan will enable the sector to continue emitting a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year until 2030.

The intention is for all ships to be ranked on a operational carbon intensity rating from 2023 onwards: A to E, indicating a major superior, minor superior, moderate, minor inferior, or inferior performance level. The starting point is that a ship scores at least a C, which stands for average. Shipping companies that fail to achieve this score three years in a row must draw up an improvement plan. The criticism focuses mainly on the lack of sanctions for ships that flout the rules. The scheme will be evaluated in 2026.

Dual approach

What is new is that the system will also apply to existing ships. Up to now, IMO regulations have been limited to new ships. A few years ago, the UN agency set the objective that greenhouse gas emissions, especially CO2 but also methane, among other things, should be reduced by forty per cent by 2030 compared to 2008. This target will not be achievable if stricter emission requirements are only imposed on new ships.

The label, officially the carbon intensity indicator (CII), is determined on the basis of the so-called Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEESI). This indicates the energy efficiency of a ship in relation to a certain minimum level. The CII and EEESI in turn serve as the basis for the already mandatory Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), in which the ship operator indicates which operational measures he takes to reduce emissions. The IMO speaks of a dual approach because it combines technical and operational measures.

The plan has been approved by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee and now goes to the member states, which have six months to respond. It will then come back to the MEPC, where it will be on the agenda next June. Sixteen months after that at the earliest, the new system will enter into force. This means that the energy label cannot be introduced before 2023.


A few weeks ago, container shipping company Maersk strongly criticised the plan. According to the head of Legal Affairs Simon Bergulf, IMO is ‘walking a path of minimal compliance’. According to him, the IMO is thereby jeopardising its own target of forty per cent less ‘carbon intensity’ by 2030.

‘We have to recognise that the problem is urgent. We need ambitious and enforceable global regulation rather than regional initiatives,’ said the Maersk official. With this, Bergulf refers to a plan by the European Parliament to come up with its own legislation for European shipping.

This article first appeared in Dutch on Nieuwsblad Transport, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.