Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
London & South East Branch

Refocusing on shipping decarbonisation

by Richard Scott FICS, member of London & South East Branch Committee, 22 September 2020
Endeavouring to cope with many and varied effects from the coronavirus pandemic remains the shipping industry’s principal challenge. But another difficult task is also obvious: how to decarbonise vessel movements.
Publication of a new report a couple of weeks ago has contributed to refocusing attention on this problem. The International Energy Agency has published Energy Technology Perspectives 2020, a voluminous 400-page analysis looking at decarbonisation across all energy-consuming sectors during the next 50 years. Changes affecting shipping are included in detail.
Link for access: (International Energy Agency, 10 September 2020, in particular see pages 153-159 and 271-286 for maritime coverage)
The magnitude of this report indicates the immense size of the puzzle for energy-consuming activities in the world as a whole. For shipping, especially long-haul voyages, the aim of drastically reducing CO2 emissions over the next few decades is described as a “formidable task”. As the authors discuss, one difficulty is that a large input into the decarbonisation process is needed from technologies that are not yet commercially available.
Among potential solutions, the report points to biofuels as one of the most promising fuel options for shipping in the short to medium term. Hydrogen and ammonia are likely to be alternatives eventually. Electrical power from batteries is not feasible for long voyages and awaits a technological breakthrough. LNG is not seen as a long-term solution.
How quickly technical problems can be overcome and supplies of alternative fuels ramped up remains to be seen. In the meantime, a further advantage from ‘operational measures’, which reduce fuel consumption via improved vessel operation and maintenance, is identified as offering a valuable contribution.