Forging ahead with decarbonisation ambitions

The shipping industry is at a critical point where it is looking for options to make ships greener to meet the IMO decarbonisation goals. The challenge is highly complex and calls for collective action across the maritime industry. Optimism that such action was getting underway was evident at Nor-Shipping but there is a long way to go.

Speaking at the DNV - Capital Link gathering on the Monday before Nor-Shipping, Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the IMO said he expects strong progress on decarbonisation ambitions by member states, regardless the geo-political tensions but warned that it was unlikely to be the 100% that many are hoping for. A sentiment he repeated at the opening ceremony the following day.

We should see how the IMO’s GHG strategy is panning out at the IMO’s environmental committee talks (MEPC 80) taking place in London at the beginning of July. As the international governing body for shipping, the IMO is often criticised for not moving fast enough but it is not the IMO committees that decide the pace of regulation – that is down to the delegates representing the 175 national governments that have the voting powers. And as Kitack Lim points out, not all countries see eye to eye on the issue.

Time is running speakers warn

With the shipping industry at a critical point as it seeks ways to decarbonise at a time when there’s an energy transition play, respected business leaders, politicians, ocean experts and key industry stakeholders gathered at the Nor-Shipping for discussions on the industry’s hottest topics.

“We can’t get the job done in terms of meeting the Paris targets of holding the earth’s temperature increase to 1.5 degrees unless shipping is at the table in a big way,” warned John Kerry US presidential special envoy on climate, at the Nor-Shipping Ocean Leadership Conference.

Successive speakers from Kerry, Kitack Lim, and Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz reminded the audience the industry is not moving fast enough, climate change is an emergency, time is tunning out. Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s climate & environment minister argued shipping is not-hard-to abate but is a big opportunity, “We shouldn’t think of this as a hard-to-abate sector but rather think of it as a big opportunity,” he said.

This point was also echoed by the heads of the leading decarbonisation centres. In the first-of-its kind conversation with leaders Lynn Loo, CEO, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, Charles Haskell, Director, LR Maritime Decarbonisation Hub, and Johannah Christensen, Co-Founder and CEO Global Maritime Forum, all stressed the importance of not underestimating the progress that the industry is making on decarbonisation – but acknowledged there is still a lot of work to be done.

All agreed there is a need to develop and deploy new technologies and fuel pathways and implement policies that support their use. Speeding up the transition will highly depend on how quickly the various actors across the supply chain can come together to demonstrate decarbonisation solutions and pave the way for those that come after.

Speeding up the transition through collaboration

“The thinking around decarbonisation is maturing and companies are increasingly setting targets, not only for 2050 but also 2030 and 2040. Also, more and more companies want to be part of the community and are allocating resources in our strategic and technical projects,” said Bo Cerup-Simonsen. “At the same time, there’s still barriers to overcome and the industry as a whole needs to speed up its decarbonisation efforts. It’s not just about alternative fuels. The push for decarbonisation requires new solutions, new ways of working across the industry. It has to become business sustainable and robust.” 

“We recently did a survey and the thing that we’re most optimistic about is that of the 130 respondents, 70% prioritise decarbonisation, 70% have either a net zero or intermediate targets, 30% have roadmaps in place and another 60% are developing roadmaps. For us, that’s a very strong indicator that the sector is going through a transition,” commented Lynn Loo.

“That said, I still think we need to have tighter conversations with regulators and standard developers because as an industry we can do whatever we want but at the end of the day regulators need to be involved,” added Lynn Loo.

Acknowledging the argument by some that there is a visible gap between what the industry is saying it is doing about decarbonisation and what it is actually doing, Johannah Christensen made the point that this oversimplifies the pace of a complex set of transitions underway. “Sure, there is a demand for detail, and we do have front runners and we also have followers, companies who are still looking at their options, assessing where they want to position themselves. Decarbonising operations is after all a highly complex challenge and there’s no quick fix but the front runners – and there are many – are involved in our respective efforts, they are moving full steam ahead. It is our hope we can keep mobilizing more companies into becoming front runners.”

Charles Haskell echoed the comments made by his counterparts saying “There is certainly a growing interest in what we are doing, and more companies are getting involved, both on a strategic and operational level. Still, there is so much we need to do in a short amount of time. Also, we need to be more transparent in terms of communicating what is being done. Some of the studies and projects we’re doing take time, up to five years in some cases, and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. We’re making progress in the industry, but we need to do more faster.”

Blue sky thinking

There were also many panel debates notably at Nor-Shipping’s Blue Talks forum where experts shared their insights on matters ranging from green financing to cross industry collaboration, future fuels, infrastructure development, autonomy, regulatory insight, and how to drive and influence positive change amongst other topics.

With 12 focussed discussions and panels drawn from almost 70 individual speakers, the talks were highly informative and thought provoking. Such a variety of opinions left audiences agreeing with some and disagreeing with others. But then shipping is an industry where divergent views sometimes result in things moving at speeds that never satisfy everyone.

There were also a raft of launches and demonstrations covering innovations and collaborations that are driving towards a more sustainable future. Perhaps the most interesting and innovative new vessels to be announced during the week was Hurtigruten’s first zero-emission ship. Dubbed as the world’s most energy-efficient cruise ship, the Sea Zero project is most definitely the result of ‘Partnership’ featuring as it does input from SINTEF and at least a dozen maritime partners, including Jotun.

The ship will be electric and equipped with batteries that charge in port. Combining 60-megawatt hour battery solutions with wind technology, the vessel is expected to feature numerous firsts and improved solutions that do not exist on cruise ships today, including retractable sails with solar panels, artificial intelligence manoeuvring, contra-rotating propellers, and multiple retractable thrusters. Additional technologies include air lubrication and Jotun’s advanced hull coating and HullSkater cleaning solution.

Transformation requires leaders

Unsurprisingly there was a lot of optimism and positive communications throughout Nor-Shipping, but some media questioned - can the industry close the gap between rhetoric and reality? Claus Winter Graugaard, chief technology officer at Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping addressed that saying, “Business leaders are expressing great confidence that industry can solve the decarbonisation challenges and also make this a sustainable business case. Transformation requires leaders to lean in and make bold long term choices while broadening the minds and perspectives for a new future of energy and transportation systems.”

For its part, Jotun is very much focused on being part of the solution for the future and announced its Clean Shipping Commitment during Nor-Shipping. The commitment combines over a century of experience and involves range of services, products and digital capabilities designed to protect biodiversity and cut emissions to support global sustainability ambitions and achieve cleaner operations for all industry players. Jotun was especially proud to be able to present its Clean Shipping Commitment and the Jotun HullSkater to Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon Magnus.

Impact of biofouling underestimated

The event was also a good time for Jotun to share the findings of its Clean Shipping Survey released in May this year. The survey reveals that industry perception of the need to tackle biofouling on ships’ hulls is somewhat opaque. There is a general level of knowledge but little clarity around what impact biofouling has on Green House Gas (GHG) emissions or on the spread of invasive aquatic species.

“Our clean shipping survey takes a deep dive into the shipping industry’s knowledge of biofouling on ships’ hulls, the technologies available to manage it, and whether international regulations play a part in developing a response to the issue,” said Morten Sten Johansen, Jotun’s Global Marketing Director, Hull Performance Category. “The survey reveals almost two thirds of the shipping industry underestimate the negative environmental impacts of biofouling, with as much as 1 in 4 claiming to know little about the issue. Also, it is clear from our survey that many operators, when considering new emission reduction technologies, are looking through the lens of finance and return on investment and missing out on the benefits of proven technologies. As well as being more fuel efficient and lowering emissions, good biofouling management through optimised antifouling coatings and proactive cleaning would reduce the risks ships pose to international waterways and maintain their right to operate.”        

On the positive side, Morten Sten Johansen said most survey respondents regard biofouling management as part of the bigger picture and going forward expect tackling biofouling to form part of their strategy to improve fuel efficiency, reduce GHG emissions and support environmental policies.  

Jotun also participated in the panel debate titled ‘Charting the course: reducing emissions, preserving fuel and protecting biodiversity’ at Nor-Shipping. President and CEO Morten Fon said he believed there was some way to go for shipping on its decarbonisation journey, but that co-operation was essential. “We have a long way to go and one thing that we have to acknowledge is that everybody can contribute because this is not a one company game. We have to do this together if we are going to achieve the decarbonisation goals.”

Read more about the panel debate here

Call for common global regulation and public sector support

Echoing the messages he shared in the Ocean Thought Leaders interview in the lead up to Nor-Shipping, Morten Fon acknowledges that managing biofouling represents only a small piece of the decarbonisation puzzle. To achieve meaningful change, he believes owners need common global regulations and more support from the public sector to accelerate the green shift. In the meantime, ship operators would be wise to consider a “broad approach” to improving energy efficiency.      

“As we have seen at Nor-Shipping, there are a lot of solutions out there but in my view, investing in premium hull coatings is low hanging fruit for operators, especially now that regulations on emissions and biofouling guidelines are tightening and bunkering costs remain high,” he said. “Operators have to paint the hulls of their vessels anyway, so why not choose a hull coating that is not only proven to reduce fuel costs and corresponding emissions, but can help them compete for high value cargoes by keeping their CII ratings high?”

Like so many, Jotun will be watching events at MEPC 80 next month with interest. “What will be the shape of success at the IMO look like? That very much depends on where you stand,” said Morten Sten Johansen and concluded, “There is clearly a long way to go but many at Nor-Shipping believe there are grounds for optimism and there’s an increasing number of companies that want to be part of the maritime eco-system that is positioning to help make shipping more sustainable. There are also many available and practical solutions to improve efficiency and cut emissions today. Indeed, it all begins and ends with a clean hull.”

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