ICS: Carbon Targets for Shipping Only Possible with ‘Zero CO2’ Fuels

Image Courtesy: IMO

The ambitious CO2 reduction targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the year 2050 can only be delivered with the global rollout of zero CO2 fuels and propulsion systems, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) believes.

Last month, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted a comprehensive strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions from international shipping, which is currently responsible for producing about 2% of the world’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions while moving about 90% of global trade.

Speaking at the annual Summit of Transport Ministers hosted by the OECD International Transport Forum in Leipzig, Simon Bennett, ICS Deputy Secretary General, said:

“As well as being consistent with the 1.5 degree climate change goal, the IMO targets are far more ambitious than what has so far been agreed for aviation (…) But the shipping industry greatly welcomes the IMO agreement because it gives us the signal we need to get on with the job of decarbonizing the sector completely as soon as possible.”

With respect to the IMO goals set for 2050 – a 70% efficiency improvement as an average across the fleet, and a total CO2 cut by the sector of at least 50% by 2050, Bennett said “these targets can realistically only be achieved with the development and global roll out of genuine zero CO2 fuels.”

“To be clear, zero CO2 fuels means radical and as yet unproven technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells using ammonia or methanol or batteries powered using renewable energy. While LNG or biofuels will play an important part in the transition we only really see these as interim solutions that won’t deliver the ambitious targets which IMO has now set for 2050. While we are confident new zero CO2 technologies will eventually deliver they are not yet fully ready for maritime application, and certainly not yet for deep sea trades,” he pointed out.

What is more, Bennett said that the development of the new technologies will require cooperation between all relevant stakeholders in the industry. However, research into new propulsion systems has to be facilitated by governments within a framework that needs to be delevoped by IMO.

When it comes to new technologies, compromises will have to be made, according to Bennett:

“For example, in order to develop hydrogen propulsion systems, and gain experience of the serious technical challenges, we may need to initially permit use of hydrogen that is still derived from fossil feedstock rather than renewables, a technology which is not quite there yet, though probably not insurmountable in the longer term.”

With regard to short-term measures, Bennett said the industry recognizes that there is a political need among many governments for new IMO regulations that will start achieving further CO2 reductions from the sector before 2023, so that the industry stays on track to improve efficiency, as an average across the sector, by at least 40% by 2030, as also agreed by IMO.

Simon Bennett,
ICS Deputy Secretary General; Image Courtesy: ICS

The next round of IMO discussions will take place in October 2018 in order to consider a list of possible candidate measures for CO2 reduction, and the industry is planning to make some detailed submissions to that meeting.

“We are particularly focused on further improvements to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships which already requires a 30% efficiency improvement for ships built in 2025 compared to 2013, perhaps moving forward the implementation dates that currently apply for certain ship types such as containerships,” Bennett explained.

“ICS is open to how shipowners can best optimize speed management and also use efficiency indicators to improve ship performance (…) However, we are very nervous about measures which will be far too complicated to administer and which may cause serious distortion to shipping markets, such as publishing supposed operational efficiency indicators for individual ships that have no relation to actual CO2 emissions in real life,” he further said.

“At the moment we believe the IMO strategy can best be delivered with technical measures alone. We don’t think we need the smoke and mirrors of market based measures or the purchase of carbon offsets to compensate for emissions which the sector is quite capable of reducing itself in line with the targets now agreed by IMO,” Bennett concluded.

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