Maritime UK Calls for More Government R&D Funding for Decarbonization

File image courtesy Port of Felixstowe

Published Jul 14, 2021 7:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

The UK government has released a landmark plan for the decarbonization of transportation - but it does not adequately address the concerns of shipping, according to trade group Maritime UK. 

In an announcement Wednesday, transport minister Grant Shapps said that the government's decarbonization plan sets out new commitments on shore power, emissions reductions and strengthening the UK's "blue economy" of maritime technology and shipbuilding expertise.

The government's progress timeline starts with an assessment of the technical, operational and policy options available to accelerate decarbonization, which will be completed this year. This will be followed by indicative targets for the UK domestic maritime sector's decarbonization, to be issued next year, and consultations on the phase-out of CO2-emitting domestic vessels. It also contemplates expanding the UK's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) to cover bunker fuel, with credit for renewable fuels of non-biological origin. The ultimate goal is to achieve net zero by 2050, and potentially sooner. 

However, the UK's maritime industry does not believe that these steps are adequate to the task, according to Maritime UK. 

"Despite being bigger than aviation and rail combined, maritime has been largely overlooked in the government’s net zero drive," said Ben Murray, the group's CEO. "No headline commitments and no money to get on with the task in front of us. Government has led the way in setting stretching targets, but as yet we have no clear path to meeting them."

Murray called for financial commitments from the government for co-investment in charging points for electric vessels; significant investment in maritime R&D, comparable in scale to spending on automotive and aviation technology; and a budget line item review to back it up. 

"We know there is real appetite and capability across the UK’s maritime industries for identifying the solutions to propel net zero vessels. If we are to level up our coastal communities and bring shipbuilding home, we need government to do what other maritime nations do, and invest in research and innovation," Murray said.