Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
London & South East Branch

Fuelling the decarbonisation debate

by Richard Scott FICS, member of London & South East Branch Committee, 19 May 2021
 
More heat was generated last month in the debate about decarbonising shipping when an authoritative report on the topic was published. Experts at the World Bank expressed doubts about how much liquefied natural gas as a marine fuel could contribute to the transition.
 
The published summary of the World Bank’s report provides a useful and readable overview of the wider maritime decarbonisation story. But a controversial aspect was its suggestion that LNG “is estimated to play a rather limited role in the transition towards low- and zero-carbon shipping, being mostly used in niche applications”. 

 
It was argued by the authors that the greenhouse gas advantage of LNG as a bunker fuel “remains uncertain”. Their investigation had concluded that investing in LNG should be discouraged. Temporary use “may lead to anything from modest GHG benefits to modest GHG disbenefits”. 
 
The authors further contended that investments in LNG risk locking in the technology. This could result in a longer phase-out, and therefore potentially greater difficulties in meeting the International Maritime Organization’s 2050 climate target.
 
While LNG is widely acknowledged in maritime circles as only a transitional solution, the World Bank’s ideas have proved too negative for many people in the shipping industry. An independent study also published last month by industry groups SEA-LNG and SGMF asserted that LNG can “beyond question” contribute significantly to the IMO’s planned greenhouse gas reduction.
 
SEA-LNG argue that “waiting for future fuels and not fully utilising LNG...is a mistake”. More weight to this view was added this month by classification society ABS which said that “it’s clear the industry needs LNG as a transitional fuel to get us to 2030”.    
 
The World Bank report summary is available at: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/35436 
(Charting a course for decarbonising maritime transport, 15 April 2021)