The International Maritime Organization (IMO) target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008” aligns the shipping sector with the Paris Agreement temperature goals. Strong actions are needed. The IMO strategy relies on technological innovation and alternative energy sources for global shipping, and support of governments and shipping customers will be essential to realise this new level of ambition.
With intuitive timing, a tremendous amount of guidance has just been made available by the International Transport Forum, releasing a series of reports over the last month that provide comprehensive analysis of the options and actions needed by a host of players in the global maritime industry. They suggest a path forward based on assessments of advancing technologies and best practices in operational management and government policy being used around the world to tackle the issue.
Decarbonising Maritime Transport – Pathways to zero-carbon shipping by 2035
This report explores the full range measures to effectively reduce shipping emissions, which represent 2.6% of total global emissions, and offers recommendations on policies to incentivise decarbonisation. The business-as-usual scenario projects 23% growth in carbon emissions from international shipping by 2035, yet with maximum deployment of currently known technologies it’s possible to reach almost complete decarbonisation in that time.
Alternative fuels and renewable energy can deliver much of required reductions, combined with technological and operational measures to improve energy efficiency. Clear guidance and interventions from governments will be essential to accelerate commercial viability, technical feasibility and investment in sustainable technologies and fuels.
The associated Case of Sweden report analyses why the Swedish shipping industry are pioneers of low-carbon shipping and how other countries can learn from their success. Their remarkable progress in LNG, electric and methanol-powered vessels can be explained by stakeholder cooperation between shipping companies and large Swedish shippers dedicated to green supply chains, along with financial support and regulation from government.
Visualisation of CO2e emission across global shipping routes in 2015. Source: ITF
Reducing Shipping Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Lessons from Port-Based Incentives
Ports have a crucial role to play in facilitating the reduction of shipping emissions. This report identifies port-based incentives currently in place, examining their features and impacts. Most common is the environmentally-differentiated port fee, applied in 28 of the 100 largest ports, yet impacts on global shipping emissions are only marginal. It argues for wider, harmonised application of green port fees, green berth-allocation policies, green procurement and carbon pricing schemes to help enforce the “polluter pays” principle.
Fuelling Maritime Shipping with Liquefied Natural Gas – The Case of Japan
Japan is positioning itself to become the Asian hub for bunkering LNG-fuelled ships on the main East-West trade lanes. Still a marginal share of the world’s fleet, 118 LNG-fuelled vessels currently operating globally will double by 2020 and CMA CGM’s order of nine LNG-enabled mega-container ships is expected to be followed by competitors. Other Asian ports are developing similar bunkering facilities, with Singapore and Japan collaborating on an Asian bunkering network.
LNG’s growth is driven by regulations to reduce SOx and NOx emissions from maritime transport. Its advantages over conventional fuels can reduce ship carbon emissions by 20% but “methane slip” releases fugitive emissions that can negate its greenhouse gas impact. Further technological development is needed to enhance LNG as a greenhouse-friendly transition fuel in shipping.
Heatmap of LNG-fuelled ship positions. Source: DNV GL
Important themes for Australia
Two red spots on the above graphic represent the two dual-fuel LNG/diesel powered vessels now operating in Australia – the Siem Thiima platform support vessel services Woodside oil & gas fields on the North West Shelf, and the SeaRoad Mersey II Ro-Ro carries passengers, vehicles and freight across Bass Strait. Several vessels plying Bass Strait are due for replacement, with operators considering LNG-enabled vessels to be covered for the IMO sulphur rules coming in 2020.
Japan is the world’s biggest importer of LNG, much sourced from Australia. Woodside, Australia’s biggest LNG producer, is leading a ‘green corridor’ initiative to develop LNG as a marine fuel for iron ore carriers operating from north-west Australia to China and north Asia. The project aims to build LNG infrastructure and bunkering facilities in the Pilbara, and Woodside has partnered with key mining and shipping players to design vessels and bunkering facilities for a grand vision with a range of benefits beyond emissions reduction, including energy security, regional development and upskilling workforce capability. Yet Australia’s climate policy focus on renewable energy means there’s little government support available. The irony of Japan fuelling LNG ships coming to the Pilbara with Australia’s own gas is wasteful not just in a ‘food miles’ sense, but also the lack of value-add to our plentiful raw resources.
The ITF reports highlight the role of leading ‘green ship index’ RightShip in actions that shippers, charterers, banks and ports can take to decarbonise shipping. Their GHG Emissions Rating covers 76,000 ships, and RightShip recently announced Australia’s major ship charterer Incitec Pivot as the first customer for its new carbon neutral shipping solution built on its carbon accounting tool that measures the ship-sourced scope 3 emissions of shipping customers. While some shipping lines and freight forwarders offer a carbon offset service for containerised freight movements, the size of the environmental benefit of offsetting 73,000 tonnes of CO2e each year from 200 bulk ship charters is a game-changer for supply chain emissions reduction.
Global Shippers Forum
It’s timely also then that next week Australia hosts the world’s most senior gathering of shippers, trade logistics providers and government representatives at the Global Shippers Forum in Melbourne. There’s keen interest in the Global Reform session tackling the issue of carbon emissions in the international supply chain, touching on the work of the Global Logistics Emissions Council who’ve developed a universal method for calculating logistics emissions from road, rail, air, sea and transhipment centres to help control greenhouse gas emissions across whole logistics supply chains.
As part of the global multi-modal supply chain that will keep growing with international trade, shipping’s carbon reduction target fills another piece of the puzzle in a world now aiming for net zero emissions, and we must act now.