BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
The Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership is a coalition of eight Pacific Islands countries, led by the Marshall Islands and Fiji. Other members of the PBSP include Kiribati, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Its aim is to develop sustainable low-carbon maritime transport for passengers and cargo through a 100% carbon-free maritime transport sector by 2050, with a 40% reduction of greenhouses gas emissions from shipping by 2030.
The initiative gained international traction at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, when the late Tony de Brum — then foreign minister of the Marshalls — shepherded through the launch of the agreement to target a 1.5C warming threshold, as well as regular reviews and a long-term climate goal, known as the Paris Agreement.
Joseph “Jerry” Kramer, CEO of Pacific International Inc. has thrown his weight behind the PBSP.
Kramer also accepted a cabinet appointment to serve on the board of the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport, the initiative of the Marshall Islands and the University of the South Pacific that aims achieve the transport emissions reduction targets set under the Paris Agreement. The initiative to establish the MCST was endorsed by the 15th Micronesian Presidents’ Summit in 2015, as well as by other bodies.
The leadership of the Marshalls and its partners in the Climate Vulnerable Forum is recognized by the International Maritime Organization, with 174 country convention members; the International Chamber of Shipping, representing the world’s national ship owner associations and more than 80% of the merchant fleet; and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, Kramer said.
“I believe that Tony de Brum was very instrumental in getting this organization formed. It’s amazing the traction, recognition and respect that the Marshall Islands has in the world community [among] the big players,” he said.
“These companies all refer to the Marshall Islands and its presentation for potential tariffs on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon emissions by the shipping industry.”
The Climate Vulnerable Forum is a global partnership of countries that are disproportionately affected by the consequences of global warming. The Marshalls chaired the forum from 2018 to 2020.
Kramer said what also helps is that Peter Nuttall, a scientific and technical adviser for the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport at the University of the South Pacific is “an extremely active proponent” of the MCST’s aims.
The “Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport” is somewhat of a misnomer, Kramer said, given the organization’s membership in the Pacific. “The board has proposed — and it’s being considered to change the name to the Tony de Brum Center for Sustainable Transport. Frankly, I feel he’s entitled to it,” Kramer said.
The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties — known as COP26 — in Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Kramer said, “The RMI and the Solomons put through a proposal. It is the only one that has sufficient detail where it could actually have an influence on this business of having a tariff on emissions.” Different organizations are likely to put forward their own tariff proposals, he said. The two countries proposed in March an initial tariff of $100 per metric ton, with the proposal submitted to the International Maritime Organization.
Funds would help climate-vulnerable countries and subsidize development of new technologies and fuels. “That would go into research and development for eventual decarbonization of the shipping industry,” Kramer said.
He said of the aim of a carbon free maritime sector, “It’s realistic — amazing, but realistic.”
Shipping is a vital lifeline, particularly in Micronesia with its vast expanses of water. “Shipping carries 90% of the trade in food and durable goods. Without shipping, half the world would starve to death,” Kramer said.
Although he said the shipping industry accounts for less than 3% as a contributor to greenhouse gases, he said group efforts “are something we can do.” In addition, he said, “It’s organized to a point where we can get revenue from that organization — a multi-billion or trillion- dollar industry — to work towards the overall problem of greenhouse gas emissions.”
The shipping industry offers advantages as a partner, he said. “Shipping is an industry you can get your hands around and by working with it we can come up with programs that will assist in developing greenhouse gas reduction.”
The MCST is approaching the International Maritime Organization, the International Chamber of Shipping and “is trying to use its support on an international basis,” Kramer said. “The Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership is actually for the Pacific and the Pacific Islands.”
One positive outcome is a 2018 Memorandum of Understanding between the China Navigation Co. Pte. Ltd. — parent of Swire Shipping and Swire Bulk — and the University of the South Pacific to design, build and trial a primarily low-carbon ship to serve the Pacific islands. The Cerulean Project is that vessel. “It’s a practical vessel; it’s suitable to the island countries that have a long history of sailing traditions,” Kramer said. “For the Marshalls — and that’s really where the Cerulean Project was initiated — it makes a lot of sense. The populations in the outer islands are relatively small and travel back and forth to the district center in the old days … was from that island to that island. It was overnight.” The arrival of the U.S. military changed perspective and customs and made journeys longer, Kramer said. “It’s not as convenient and the transportation is therefore not as frequent.”
The possibilities are there, he said. “A larger model of the Cerulean Project could go from the Marshalls to Fiji to New Zealand.” The first vessel is an experiment in inter-island trade and to see how practical it is, he said.
The PBSP is being administered by the University of New South Wales and is funded by the World Bank, which committed an advisory support package focusing on evaluation of environmental stability for Pacific ports, assessments for maritime needs in the Pacific and government reform and capacity building needs, as well as strengthening the PBSP and development of the Pacific maritime sector. The World Bank has said assessments could factor into its investment strategy for the maritime sector in the Pacific region.
The PBSP’s responsibility, Kramer said is “to put together a report and a budget for the overall solution in the Pacific.”
In addition, he said, “It’s the Pacific islands that are most vulnerable to sea level rise.” The region’s efforts epitomize the intent of the Pacific Islands, Kramer said. “We understand the problem of global warming; it affects us, we’re the most vulnerable and we’re going to do everything in our power to work towards eliminating or limiting our contribution to what is causing global warming.” mbj