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Chair DeFazio Statement from Hearing on Decarbonizing the Maritime Industry

Jan 14, 2020
Press Release

The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during today’s hearing titled: “The Path to a Carbon-Free Maritime Industry: Investments and Innovation.”

Chair DeFazio:

Thank you, Chairman Maloney, I commend you for taking up the topic of “green shipping” as the first hearing in the new year for the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Since new international low sulfur emission standards for marine transportation kicked in two weeks ago, the timing of this hearing could not be more appropriate.

For too long global marine carriers have been able to evade complying with emission control standards, notwithstanding the fact that other transportation modes did have to comply with emission standards to reduce a whole host of noxious emissions and other harmful particulate matter from cars, trains, and planes. 

Slowly, the International Maritime Organization was able to build a consensus on a schedule of emission reductions, that when fully implemented, will have reduced absolute vessel emissions by at least 50 percent from the 2008 baseline. This is a very positive development that stands to improve air quality and reduce human health impacts. I commend the IMO for taking this initiative and moving ahead, but we can and must do better. 

The world’s largest shipping company has set a goal of zero emissions by 2050, but that should be a goal for the entire industry. If the maritime industry merely reduces vessel emissions by 50 percent over the next 30 years, the impact of such a reduction could be largely offset by an increase in vessel traffic.

But to meet even the 50 percent reduction target, the global maritime industry must overcome substantial technical, economic, financial, and logistical challenges.

It is the discussion of those challenges that most interests me, in particular how this scenario could play out here in the United States.

For example, it remains uncertain what role the Federal government will play in fostering or facilitating the transition to a carbon-free maritime industry for both our coastwise and foreign trades. 

If anything, over the past thirty years the maritime industry has become almost an orphaned child and an afterthought in the Department of Transportation.   And were it not for the Navy shipbuilding program, our shipbuilding industry might have entirely lost its capability to build ocean-going vessels.

Additionally, the switch to a carbon-free maritime industry will have repercussions across more than just the vessels themselves.  Corresponding impacts also will affect port facilities and maritime industries that provide fuels, logistical support, and stevedoring for the new “green” fleet of vessels calling on U.S. ports.

So, when we take up the topic of “green shipping” we are talking about much more than just new, innovative vessel designs, or low sulfur fuels.  We are talking about a dynamic shift. A shift that in a relatively short fifteen to thirty-year period will result in the virtual makeover of the conventional global maritime transportation system.

This is exciting stuff.  There are, however, no assurances that we will end up with a new global maritime supply chain that is more efficient and less harmful to the global environment. The only way forward is to engage the industry to learn what they are doing and to determine the best course of action for the Federal government.

If one thing is clear today it is this: we can no longer afford to sit on our hands and be idle.  Collectively, both the Congress and the administration need to get to work today reimagining the maritime industry of tomorrow.