Shipping is an international sector. To decarbonise shipping, we require an unprecedented level of cooperation at the international level. The best place to achieve that is at the IMO. This viewpoint was recently shared by the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the North Sea, Vincent Van Quickborne, at a webinar on alternative fuels in support of Belgian candidacy to IMO Council: “World trade needs international regulations to make sure the necessary fuels are available. A lot of preconditions will need to be fulfilled outside of the shipping sector. The time to act is now. Together we can shape the future of shipping.”
That said, Belgian shipowners are fully supportive of the strengthening of the IMO’s Initial GHG strategy adopted in 2018, which is at the heart of the discussion at this week’s MEPC.
“Climate change is a global challenge that will impact our industry heavily in the coming years. As a small player, we are ready to accept the challenge and fulfil our role to meet decarbonisation goals,” said Vincent Durot, Managing Director, Boeckmans.
Belgian shipowners have for the past few years been heavily involved in the investment and research in new technologies that would one day help the sector fully decarbonise. The RBSA is part of the EU-funded STEERER (Structuring Towards Zero Emission Waterborne Transport) project and the Waterborne Technology Platform, and a founding member of the Maritime Industry Decarbonisation Council (MIDC) think-tank. On behalf of all its members, the RBSA has signed the “Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonization” launched at COP26 calling on governments and the global shipping industry leaders to commit to decarbonising the sector by 2050.
“We need global regulations to be fit for purpose in order for them to work,” said Wilfried Lemmens, Managing Director, RBSA. “The reason why it is so difficult to decarbonise a global sector like shipping is because the problem lies both downstream and upstream. New technologies are being developed rapidly, but they need to be scaled up. Much of the issues lay outside shipping itself, such as the transparency of fuel supply chains and the building of new infrastructures to supply the new fuels. As our recent analysis of the proposed FuelEU Maritime Regulation has shown, regulations need to target the right people in order to incentivise change.”
On the one hand, fit-for-purpose international regulations help to ensure a global level-playing field. On the other hand, technologies such as alternative fuels and power systems need to be incentivised and scaled up. Some Belgian shipowners are already preparing themselves with transitional technologies:
“As a leading player in the gas shipping industry, EXMAR is well-positioned with innovative vessels reducing CO2 emissions. We will use our expertise in dual fuel vessels to continue to develop this technology into ammonia-as-a-fuel and CO2-fuelled shipping. We are happy to play an important role in our industry’s global decarbonisation efforts.” said Jens Ismar, Executive Director Shipping, Exmar.
The reliance of dual fuel as the transitional phase into the use of alternative fuel is likewise echoed by Alexander Saverys, CEO, CMB: “For the next ten years, we do believe that dual fuel is the only possibility for clean shipping. The alternative of fuel cells has not reached market maturity and they are still too costly to be economical. Furthermore, we believe that dual fuel technology can also solve the ‘chicken and egg’ problem. Now you can’t bunker the clean fuel due to a lack of consumers. Dual fuel will help to create the infrastructure and will minimise the investments onboard the ship as we can limit the storage of the clean fuel to what we typically use. We don’t have to store the redundant fuel in case we have to deviate, or meet strong adverse currents or extreme bad weather, as we can always fall back on the proven diesel supply. Storage of the clean fuel is the most expensive added costs for a clean ship.”
Indeed, as RBSA’s Hélène Smidt, Specialist in Maritime Innovation and Finance explained: “To make this fuel switch work, there are 5 critical pillars: Fuel availability, Fuel quality, Life cycle assessment, Safety, Price tag.”
Following the “Shaping the Future of Shipping” conference organised on 6 November during the COP26 in Glasgow, Hugo De Stoop, CEO of Euronav made very concrete proposals for actions which can already be taken:
“Shipping can fully decarbonise by 2050 if we have a set of rules that are clear and stable for the long term:
1. We have to stop wasting fuels (and therefore GHG emissions) NOW:
– Operators and service providers must co-operate to avoid speeding up to congested ports;
– Ships must slow down whenever the market is in oversupply (emissions are exponentially linked to speed);
– Choose better and more efficient routing through technology and sharing of information.
2. A worldwide shipping carbon levy is the only way to make a level-playing field between zero emissions fuels and conventional fuel oil.
3. And finally we have to stop thinking about it and ACT NOW!“
This urgency is best summed up by Gudrun Janssens, Head of environmental & technical affairs at the RBSA: “We do not need another MEPC to agree on agreeing to work together. We need this MEPC to agree on a course of concrete actions and set it in motion.”