Top brass representing maritime states, the world’s major shipping companies, and industry associations have been in Glasgow earlier this month to attend a single-day joint shipping industry association organized decarbonization conference during the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP26).
The side event took place on November 6th at the University of Strathclyde’s Technology & Innovation Centre and was attended by world leaders in shipping, energy and finance. MSC was the lead sponsor of the event, with DNV, BP, Hapag Lloyd, CMA CGM, Grimaldi, Stena, COSCO, Pacific Basin, Oldendorff and the Port of Vancouver BC being among the other sponsors.
The stated objective of this parallel event was to advise COP26 and the upcoming IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting on the future direction of the industry. However, also on the agenda was a proposed industry-backed $5 billion research and development fund to help accelerate zero-carbon fuels and technologies within the shipping industry along with proposals for a carbon levy. The shipping industry had previously called on the UN to halve the industry’s mandated timeline for full decarbonization to 2050 while the International Chamber of Shipping has been aggressively promoting the $5 billion R&D fund to ensure zero-carbon ocean-going vessels are in service by 2030. Maersk CEO Søren Skou recently went so far as to campaign for a carbon tax of at least $450 per ton of bunker fuel ($150 per tonne CO2-equivalent).
In a conference presentation which likely gave a few of his counter parts heart palpitations, Mr. Svein Steimler, President and CEO of the NYK Group-Europe, proclaimed “I love rules – the industry needs rules – come out with the rules and will we comply – you politicians need to get your act together and tell us what to do.”
The conference was also notable for acknowledging that shippers will be influential in steering ocean carriers towards decarbonization with the major box stores all being mentioned several times. Equally, several speakers spoke to the commercial pressures on the bulk sector to embrace change.
Also taking place in Glasgow during COP26 was a so-called “ShipZero” conference organized by ZESTAs (Zero Emissions Ship Technology Association) which in addition to showcasing new technologies, also tackled the thorny issue of “who’s going to pay?”
Meanwhile, orders for LNG and methanol fueled vessels are rapidly gaining momentum across all sectors of the industry. While many companies are invested in LNG as the transition fuel of preference, Maersk’s first carbon-neutral vessel will be a methanol dual fuel 2000 TEU capacity container ship. While the vessel will be designed to operate on standard VLSFO, the plan is to operate on carbon neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol from the time of delivery in 2023.
Work is also well underway looking beyond fossil fuels entirely. For example, Japan Inc is intent on making ammonia-fuelled ships a reality by 2028 and thereby give the country a commercial lead in what many believe is the next generation of propulsion.
Hydra, the world’s first hydrogen powered ferry, Norwegian Ship of the Year 2021 – courtesy NORLED
For its part, Norwegian coastal ferry operator Norled took delivery of the new double-ended Ro-Pax ferry Hydra in August this year, the first such vessel in the world to be designed from the outset with provisions for liquid hydrogen (LH2) propulsion. Sadly, Hydra is “hydrogen ready” but is operating on battery power until a reliable supply of hydrogen becomes available.