Exploring how transnational environmental governance and the operation of global value chains (GVCs) intersect is key in explaining the circumstances under which mandatory disclosure can improve the environmental footprint of business operations. We investigate how the governance dynamics of the tanker shipping value chain (a major emitter of greenhouse gases) limits the effectiveness of the European Union (EU) monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) regulation, which mandates the disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions for ships calling at EU ports. Although MRV seeks to help shipowners and ship managers save fuel and reduce emissions, it does not address the complexity of power relations along the tanker shipping value chain and currently cannot disentangle how different actors influence the design, operational, commercial, and ocean/weather factors that together determine fuel consumption. In particular, the EU MRV neglects to reflect on how oil majors exert their power and impose their commercial priorities on other actors, and thus co-determine fuel use levels. We conclude that, in its current form, the EU MRV is unlikely to lead to significant environmental upgrading in tanker shipping. More generally, we argue that regulators seeking to facilitate environmental upgrading need to expand their focus beyond the unwanted behaviors of producers of goods and providers of services to also address the incentive structures and demands placed on them by global buyers.
A major part of the world fleet of more than 47,000 merchant ships operates under conditions that hamper energy efficiency and efforts to cut CO2 emissions. Valid and reliable data sets on ships' energy consumption are often missing in shipping markets and within shipping organizations, leading to the non-implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency measures. Policy makers are aiming to remedy this, e.g., through the EU Monitoring, Verification and Reporting scheme. In this paper, current practices for energy consumption monitoring in ship operations are explored based on interviews with 55 professionals in 34 shipping organizations in Denmark. Best practices, which require several years to implement, are identified, as are common challenges in implementing such practices—related to data collection, incentives for data misreporting, data analysis problems, as well as feedback and communication problems between ship and shore. This study shows how the logic of good energy consumption monitoring practices conflict with common business practices in shipping companies – e.g., through short-term vessel charters and temporary ship organizations – which in turn can explain the slow adoption of energy efficiency measures in the industry. This study demonstrates a role for policy makers or other third parties in mandating or standardizing good energy consumption monitoring practices beyond the present requirements.