In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Prof Lynn Loo, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) shares her thoughts about the goals of this newly established NGO in Singapore, which is backed by six key maritime industry players as founding partners and supported by the Maritime & Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore.
CMD was formally established to help the sector accelerate its decarbonisation efforts: through shaping standards, deploying solutions, financing projects and fostering collaboration across sectors. Prof Loo explains that the path towards net-zero emissions for maritime is challenging, and that collaboration is key if shipping is to meet its decarbonisation targets.
SAFETY4SEA: Which are the key barriers towards maritime decarbonisation and how does your organisation aim to assist industry towards that end?
Prof Lynn Loo: Given how carbon intensive the maritime sector is (shipping contributes about 3% of global carbon emissions annually), decarbonising this industry will require a fundamental paradigm shift in operations as we know it. While technical and operational measures, like slow steaming, more hydrodynamic hull designs and more efficient combustion engines will help reduce fuel consumption, implementing such measures alone will not get us to the IMO targets. To significantly reduce carbon emissions, low- and zero-carbon fuels will need to be part of the portfolio of solutions. Deploying these green fuels will require a foundational change in the global supply chain, from the energy producers at one end to new bunkering facilities and engine designs on the other.
The barriers to this transition to green maritime fuels are thus numerous – technical innovations to enable their production at scale and at sufficiently low cost; financing to construct production, storage and bunkering facilities; and regulatory and policy frameworks to ensure safe transport and use of such fuels. GCMD aims to identify technologies and solutions with high emissions abatement potential, and fund high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) pilots and trials of these technologies. We also hope to initiate and facilitate discussions with relevant authorities to bring forth regulatory sandboxes for conducting such trials, the results of which can guide future standards development for the broad deployment of such new solutions.
S4S: What are the top priorities in the agenda? In which areas are you going to focus on during the decade?
Prof L.L.: The experience and expertise of the team, our partnership with MPA and access to funds will uniquely allow us to tackle some of the most challenging technical, financial, and regulatory roadblocks facing shipping, as well as commission pilots and trials in one of the most important maritime hubs in the world. Given the high abatement potential of alternative fuels, our immediate priority has been to identify gaps in the supply chain of such fuels and define projects with which we can move the needle in helping the industry reduce its carbon emissions. We are also looking at other innovation technical solutions that can help reduce fuel consumption associated with international shipping.
S4S: What is your advice to ship operators to successfully embrace maritime industry’s energy transition journey?
Prof L.L.: The maritime decarbonisation challenge is too big for any one organisation or corporation to take on alone. This is the biggest challenge that the industry has faced, and critical to success in navigating this challenge is collaboration. Ship operators will need to collaborate with key industry players across the supply chain – from energy producers and ship and engine designers upstream of the supply chain, to port and terminal operators downstream. Since decarbonisation is a global agenda that will require all hands to be on deck, cross-sector collaboration will help to integrate our efforts along with those of others. For example, are there opportunities to work together with the aviation sector whose carbon emissions is comparably high and whose many challenges are similar to those in shipping?
I would encourage industry players to forge strong partnerships for which the sum effort can be significantly greater than the individual parts. I am proud that GCMD is the product of one such partnership in which six key industry players have pooled resources together in an effort to accelerate the industry’s decarbonisation efforts. And we welcome interested parties to join us in our journey!
S4S: How could industry stakeholders be further motivated to leave their mark on zero carbon shipping? What are your ideas/ recommendations?
Prof L.L.: International shipping is responsible for moving more than 80% of the goods around the world. Transforming this sector, which continues to be heavily reliant on fossil fuels, over the next several decades is a monumental task and will require all hands on deck. And while change is often uncomfortable and disconcerting, our livelihood and the livelihoods of others depend on it.
On the one hand, decarbonisation is an absolute necessity for us to reduce our impact on the environment. On the other, decarbonisation can also be an opportunity to do business differently. With large amounts of CO2 captured, for example, might shipping CO2 be a new business proposition? In the face of adversity, might there be an opportunity to creatively transform the industry?
S4S: In your view, has the industry been successful in enhancing its environmental performance? What are the lessons learned and what should be the next steps?
Prof L.L.: The implementation of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for all ships in 2011, and the more recent IMO 2020 policy that limits sulphur emissions are examples of the industry delivering its environmental goals. The shipping sector has adopted these policies through a consensus model with the IMO taking the lead. As with any consensus driven process, these policies were not approved overnight. They required time for extensive and deep discussions among all the member states and stakeholder groups, and the backing of robust, scientific data. And while the IMO have set forth 2030 and 2050 targets for reducing GHG emissions, the pathways by which we can achieve these targets remain unclear. The industry will have to work together and double down on its decarbonisation efforts in order to meet or exceed these targets on a compressed timeline. In this respect, partnerships with and through GCMD and other like-minded organisations can accelerate our collective efforts.
With shipping being a global industry, there is also an opportunity for the sector to pass a global carbon policy to accelerate our glide path to net zero. A global carbon levy on fossil fuels, for example, will give incumbent technologies a chance to compete. Here, too, we would look to the IMO to take the lead in enacting such a policy so individual nations or companies are not left behind. But we would need to act now because we do not have the luxury of time.
S4S: If you could change one thing across the industry from your perspective, what this would be and why?
Prof L.L.: While the operators across various shipping sectors have been working on lowering their carbon footprint, the efforts remain somewhat fragmented. Meeting and exceeding the IMO targets will require decarbonisation at scale across the entire global supply chain on a highly compressed timeline.
The industry needs to take a holistic view of the issue at hand and industry players will need to increase their collaborative efforts to amplify impact. For example, partnerships will be needed to conduct meaningful trials of new technologies, and aggregate demand for new fuels so they can be produced at scale. To this end, GCMD is positioned to bring solution providers and solution adopters together for such large-scale pilots.
S4S: What is your key message to industry stakeholders with respect to a more sustainable future?
Prof L.L.: The energy infrastructure is highly complex and intertwined. This infrastructure now requires a transformation in order to meet the challenges that come with decarbonising the industry. We need all hands to be on deck in order to pull off this transformation and accelerate our glide path to net zero.
Along with the industry’s efforts towards zero-carbon fuels, there is a widely recognized need for an industry-wide carbon pricing mechanism to work in tandem with these efforts. Led by the IMO, such a policy could ensure that developing nations and smaller ship owners are not left behind. The proceeds from a carbon levy can, for example, be channeled into a Research & Development (R&D) fund that invests back into the sector. Such a fund can also provide the impetus for incumbent technologies to scale up. We would need to work collaboratively and urgently to make this happen.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.