In a speech delivered before the Canadian Marine Advisory Council on Nov. 9, David Martin, owner and director of The CSL Group, called on the industry and the federal government to leverage the competitive advantage of short-sea shipping as a key contributor to economic development and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada.

According to Mr. Martin, the domestic trading pattern of bulk cargo reveals glaring discrepancies between the GHG emissions of short-sea shipping versus transport by rail or road. One tonne of cargo moved by rail will emit 170 per cent more emissions than by vessel, and 260 per cent more than if moved by a self-unloading vessel. When moved by truck, one tonne of cargo will result in the release of 300 per cent more emissions than by vessel, and 620 per cent more than by self-unloader.

“No one can argue that a vessel can move a tonne of cargo further, using less fuel and releasing fewer emissions than any other mode of transportation,” Mr. Martin said. “Yet, governments don’t seem to enact policy that takes this into account, and industry fails to realize that environmental issues, in particular GHG emissions, represent our greatest competitive advantage over rail and truck, two significantly dirtier modes of transport.”

Mr. Martin is calling on governments to foster the competitive advantage of short-sea shipping in two ways. First, by including GHG emissions as key criteria in policy development for all modes of transport; and second, by defining short-sea shipping and formalizing a policy that promotes it as the most fuel efficient and least emitting mode of transporting bulk cargo.

Mr. Martin proposes that short-sea shipping be defined as any vessel – of any type or size – that is competing with road or rail.

“When short-sea shipping is officially defined and formalized, thereby becoming a plank that future transportation policy is forced to consider, two things will happen,” he said. “One, the lines of competition between rail, trucking and marine will be drawn much more clearly, especially when the environmental footprint of each mode is considered; and two, the Government of Canada will be in a position to defend the short-sea shipping definition in global organizations like the International Marine Organization, protecting our industry and promoting it at the same time.”

Recognizing the inevitability of more stringent legislation regulating emissions, Mr. Martin encouraged the industry to ask the government to apply any future market-based measure indiscriminately to marine, road and rail. He recommends that a comprehensive mitigation strategy to address GHG emissions from all forms of cargo transportation should be based on the following:

• The superior environmental performance of short-sea shipping needs to be considered within a broad transportation policy;

• Rebates should be provided to shipping companies that have adopted carbon-scrubbing technology;

• Credits should be provided to early adopters of sustainable operating practices; and

• In the event the market-based measure is not revenue-neutral, a significant portion of monies collected from the industry should be directed to environmental research and development for the shipping industry.

CSL said sustainable operating practices are an integral part of its business philosophy and have enabled the company to reduce its GHG emissions on a tonne per mile basis by 23 per cent from 1990 levels.

“Investments in sustainability through fleet renewal, research and development, and a constant review of our operating practices have not only significantly reduced our environmental impact, but have led to increases in efficiency and profitability,” Mr. Martin said.

“Environmental performance is an advantage for the short-sea shipping industry, not a liability. In the end, Canadians have the most to gain from sustainable business practices that lead to both economic and environmental growth.”