Leading Vessel Operators Call for Zero-Emission Ships

The new coalition seeks zero-emission ships by 2030, and its position is technology-neutral. File image: The zero-emission LASH carrier Sevmorput bound for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky with 8,500 tonnes of cargo, August 29 (Rosatom)

Published Sep 23, 2019 8:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

A broad coalition of large maritime companies have joined together to accelerate the transition to zero-carbon shipping, setting a clear milepost for meeting the IMO 2050 goal of a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions. Shipping's emissions represent about two to three percent of the global total, and the share is expected to rise in proportion to other sources in future decades. 

The ambition of the new consortium - the Global Maritime Forum's "Getting to Zero Coalition" - is to have commercially viable zero emission vessels (ZEVs) operating along deep sea trade routes by 2030. This also requires the development of the ships' support network, including zero-emission energy production, distribution, storage and bunkering. Supporting partners include oil and commodities trading house Trafigura, oil major Shell, tanker operators Euronav, MISC and Dynacom Tankers Management, mining company Anglo American, agribusiness firms Cofco and Cargill, and many more. 

If achieved, the goal would be a significant step: zero-emission ship technology is well proven up to about 2,000 dwt, but no zero-emission merchant ship of the size of a modern VLCC, VLOC or ULCV has ever operated commercially. Of the small number of zero-emission merchant ships built in the late 20th century, only the Russian LASH carrier Sevmorput remains trading today. 

The Getting to Zero Coalition says that it will be technology-neutral, focused on the zero carbon energy sources that are most likely to be technologically, economically, and politically feasible at large scale. It calls for immediate action towards the goal: since ships can be operated for decades, the vessels entering the world fleet around 2030 can be expected to be operational in 2050. This means that newbuilding orders placed in just 10 years's time will factor into whether the goal is achieved. Similarly, infrastructure associated with fuel supply chains can have a long economic life of up to 50 years, and reconfiguration to new fuels can be a lengthy process. The large amounts of zero carbon energy sources required will also need to be sourced.

The coalition's announcement coincides with the UN Climate Summit 2019. In a statement for the occasion, IMO highlighted its own efforts to contribute to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including the The Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) project, which supports the uptake and implementation of energy-efficiency measures for shipping.