Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content, discusses with Johannah Christensen, Managing Director and Head of Projects & Programmes at the Global Maritime Forum how the shipping industry can move towards a carbon-free environment.
Given that the shipping industry transports about a 90% of the world trade by volume, this results to a great environmental impact. Yet, the industry plans to reduce its carbon footprint in a variety of ways.
A striking example is the newly launched ‘Getting to Zero Coalition‘, launched by the Global Maritime Forum and Friends of Ocean Action, the World Economic Forum, which aims to hasten the development of zero-emission vessels by 2030 as a key step towards decarbonizing shipping.
In light of a greener and more sustainable future, Christensen refers to IMO’s 2050 target on reducing shipping emissions by minimum 50%, adding that is an ambitious and achievable goal.
A lot of people might not think it sounds ambitious, but because of trade growth, the way to think about the figure is that it could represent a reduction of up to 85% in carbon intensity [the emission rate of a pollutant relative to the intensity of a specific activity].
Moreover, Christensen reports that shipping is responsible for about 2% and 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the emissions produced are expected to significantly increase in the coming decade.
Therefore, as decarbonization is a crucial issue for today’s environment, the industry needs to launch the deep-sea zero-emission vessels (ZEVs) by 2030. Any vessels to be operating in 2030 will be operating for at least another 15 years.
Another solution according to Christensen is electrification on vessels that are used for short-sea shipping operations, as ferries. An example is the already operating hybrid and electric ferries in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
The solutions for powering deep-sea vessels are:
- Biomass-derived fuels, so biofuel or biogas.
- Hydrogen and synthetic non-carbon fuels, like ammonia, for example, which are derived from renewable energy or from fossil fuels combined with CCS (carbon capture & storage).
- Synthetic fossil fuels, like e-methanol, that can be carbon-neutral based on the production process.
Each one of the above comes with challenges; Biomass-derived fuels are being tested as drop-in fuels on certain routes because they can burn on existing combustion engines. Most probably they’re only a transition solution.
So hydrogen and other synthetic non-carbon fuels seem like the highest potential long-term solution.
She adds that
it’s the first sector-wide agreement between financial institutions looking at how they can tackle one sector. And it’s made possible by the fact that shipping, much like aviation, has a global regulator in the International Maritime Organization. So there’s a shared standard that cuts across shipping globally, and that the banks can use as a benchmark.