The report that was launched during a press briefing, part of Global Maritime Forum's Annual summit, underlines the urgency on reducing CO2 emissions, exploring the impact shipping has on the environment, the sector’s structure and what needs to be done to achieve a greener industry.

# Transport sector and its role in the environment #

According to the report, some 50% of all liquid fossil fuels is linked to the transport sector.

Although energy used for road freight is twice that of the shipping industry, about the 80-90% of all products globally are transmitted by shipping, resulting to a 9.3% of CO2 emissions produced from the transport sector.

IMO’s third GHG study in 2015 presented that, shipping was responsible for an average of 2.8%3 of all annual GHGs on a CO₂-equivalent basis, between 2007 and 2012.

Disaggregation of global energy consumption on the transport sector / Credit: EIA 2016

In the meantime, the shipping industry is responsible for the 3% of the overall CO2 emissions, whereas since the industry is heavily reliant to HFO, the sector produces approximately 15% of global annual nitrogen oxide (NOx ) (3.2 Mt/year) emissions and 13% of SOx (2.3 Mt/year) emissions.

Also, the report indicates that building larger ships has to be additionally supported due to the fact that larger vessels need less energy to move a given amount of freight over a given distance, vessel size can reflect the aim of shipping manufacturers and owners to maximise profits by becoming more efficient, particularly with bulk carriers, container ships, and oil and chemical carriers.

In efforts on reducing shipping emissions, the sector is today interested in cleaner fuels and propulsion means; Yet, for the time being the industry has to overcome the economical barrier that comes with each fuel and propulsion means.

Annual fuel consumption by ship type in 2012 in thousands of tonnes (kt)/ Credit: IMO

# Regulations #

In line with the industry’s efforts for a greener and more sustainable shipping, the Paris Agreement goals and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both highlight the urgency for a better future in protection of the environment.

As such, the emissions need to fall urgently, by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008. More specifically IMO has set three levels of ambition:

  1. The carbon intensity of ships to decrease by implementing further phases of the energy efficiency design index for new ships. This can be achieved by strengthening the energy efficiency design requirements for ships, with a percentage improvement for each phase to be determined for each ship type, as appropriate.
  2. The carbon intensity of international shipping has to decline.
  3. GHG emissions have to be reduced from the sector by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008.

During the Global Maritime Forum Annual Summit, Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, commented

Decarbonising transport is critical to a sustainable future. Shipping is a major contributor to transport emissions and it is encouraging that the industry has shown a clear willingness to engage the energy sector to exchange ideas on low-carbon pathways.

Mr La Camera further added that following the decline of renewables’ costs, the industry will have a variety of decarbonization options, which will become competitive.

He highlighted that by 2030 alternative low-carbon fuels could reach parity with heavy fuel oil, so it is vitally important that the ship industry prepares itself for a low-carbon future.

# Conclusions - Facts #

Overall, IRENA’s report concludes to specific facts concerning the shipping industry, as such:

  1. Shipping represents 80-90% of international trade, whereas shipping’s GHG emissions could increase between 50% and 250% by 2050.
  2. Global international bunkering in 2017 accounted for 8.9 exajoules, with 82% of these energy needs met by heavy fuel oil and the remaining 18% by marine gas and diesel oil.
  3. Shipping is responsible for the 3% of global GHG emissions.
  4. Bulk and container carriers are responsible for the 85% of the net GHG emissions.
  5. Seven ports are responsible for almost the 60% of the bunker fuel sales globally, with Singapore delivering the 22% of the overall bunkering.
  6. Three ways to reduce carbon footprint:
    a)Improve vessel design to reduce specific fuel consumption
    b)Change from fossil fuels to other alternative fuels
    c)Improve practices during docking.
  7. To achieve the IMO target of halving CO2 emissions by 2050, alternative fuels will be needed from renewable sources to produce low or even zero-carbo solutions.
  8. Sustainable biofuels are ready for use, but still are not economically competitive.
  9. Electric ships running on batteries are of a great importance for shore distance applications.


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