Spotlight turns to maritime decarbonization in Asia after IMO 2020 transition

ship emissions

Shipping companies in Asia and elsewhere are forging ahead with efforts to curb their carbon footprint as the pathway to decarbonization gains momentum after a fairly smooth transition to the International Maritime Organization’s global low sulfur mandate for marine fuels.

“A lot of things are happening in decarbonization and it’s heartening to see them,” a shipping industry source said on July 13, adding that development of alternate fuels, including hydrogen, was also getting a boost due to stricter environmental rules.

The IMO, in April 2018, laid out its strategy on greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to reduce the shipping industry’s total GHG emissions by at least 50% from 2008 levels, by 2050, and to reduce CO2 emissions per transport work by at least 40% by 2030.

On July 7, Shell together with Deloitte Netherlands and Deloitte UK published a joint research outlining global industry perspectives on decarbonizing the shipping sector.

According to the report, 95% of shipping executives interviewed worldwide viewed decarbonization as important, or a top-three priority, and nearly 80% noted its importance had increased significantly over the past 18 months.

“While shipping leaders are rightly focused on the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our research shows that they still have their sights on the horizon and identify decarbonizing shipping as a top priority,” Grahaeme Henderson, vice president Shell Shipping & Maritime, said in a statement then.

Meanwhile, various non-government environmental organizations have also voiced their support for advances at IMO’s virtual GHG talks.

“Good technical progress made this week revealed that a properly enforced goal-based operational efficiency measure would unlock net savings for the shipping industry, as well as reducing CO2 emissions, and so looks increasingly inevitable,” according to a statement made available on their behalf on July 10.

Companies ramp up steps

On July 7, Japan’s Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd, or “K” Line, said it had formulated the revised edition of its “K” Line Environmental Vision 2050-Blue Seas for the Future, rearranging its targets into “decarbonization”, “aim for zero environmental impact” as well as set new milestone goals for 2030.

“K” Line aims to improve CO2 emission efficiency by 50% compared with 2008, surpassing the 2030 target of an “improvement of CO2 emission efficiency by 40% over 2008” set by the IMO globally, it said.

On January 30, 2019, NYK dry bulk carrier Frontier Sky conducted a trial use of biofuel, considered carbon-neutral, in Europe after the fuel was bunkered at the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Taiwan’s Yang Ming Marine, for its part, has met its IMO 2030 target roughly a decade earlier. In 2019, its fleet’s average carbon intensity — CO2 emissions per transport work — per TEU/km fell by a significant 51% compared with the level in 2008, from 99.4 g/TEU-km to 48.1 g/TEU-km, it said in a statement recently.

Ports to play pivotal role

Decarbonization continues to be a high priority on Maritime Singapore’s agenda.

Supported by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the Singapore Maritime Foundation has established an International Advisory Panel on Maritime Decarbonization to develop a strategy to support the industry achieve these goals.

Meanwhile, Singapore, the world’s largest bunkering port, has also launched a “Maritime GreenFuture Fund” to create ecosystems for trials and test-bedding of low-carbon technologies.

Singapore and some other ports in Asia such as Japan, China, and South Korea are also promoting LNG bunkering.

Accelerating the momentum

The Environmental Defense Fund and University Maritime Advisory Services recently published a report where it recommended that the IMO must follow the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Sustainable Aviation Fuels framework in including GHG emissions beyond just CO2, among others.

In the short term, the maritime industry should invest in initiatives that bring incremental energy-efficiency gains, industry sources told Platts, adding that this could include ordering more eco-friendly smart vessels, vessel modification and optimization projects for the existing fleet, industry sources said.

Shipping companies need to be more proactive in hull cleaning and its treatment, a fleet performance manager in Singapore said.

Calibrating ships’ main engines for slow steaming was also an option when demand remained low such as during the pandemic, an industry consultant said on July 13. However, it was not a viable option in the long run as not only would it hinder the development of alternate fuels, it would not be an optimal solution when demand recovers, he said.

In the end, concerted coordinated industry efforts as well as continued research and development for energy efficiency improvements will accelerate the pace of GHG emission cuts, sources said.

Source: Platts

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