Collaboration aims to map shipping’s sustainable energy

Aerial view of Durban port. Credit: NPA

A collaboration between maritime and environmental bodies will be conducting studies in South Africa, Indonesia, and Mexico to identify green energy investment opportunities that will facilitate decarbonisation in the shipping industry.

Known as the Getting to Zero Coalition Partnership, the group comprises the Global Maritime Forum, World Economic Forum, Friends of Ocean Action, International Association of Ports and Harbors, Environmental Defense Fund, University College London Energy Institute, and global network P4G.

The goal is to have commercially viable zero-emission vessels operating along deepsea trade routes by 2030 in line with the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) climate change ambitions.

The three countries have been selected for several reasons, said Johannah Christensen, managing director, head of Projects & Programmes, Global Maritime Forum.

First, their geographical location in three different regions – Africa, Latin America, and Asia – increases the direct reach of the Getting to Zero Coalition and, thus, enhances impact. It also allows for formulating responses based on a geographical context, which can then more easily be drawn upon for other countries in the respective regions, she said.

Second, involving developing countries and emerging economies in the decarbonisation of shipping is important for equity reasons. It also ensures momentum is built politically and economically towards making commercially viable zero-emission vessels possible on a global level.

“The three countries selected are important voices in the IMO and other relevant fora, and their proactive engagement in the decarbonisation of shipping would therefore be of considerable importance,” said Christensen.

Third, these are important trading nations and host important ports – Durban is the largest port of Africa while Manzanillo, Mexico, is the third largest in Latin America, and Indonesia is a key shipping hub in the region.

Finally, they have a considerable untapped potential to produce renewable energy, which is vital for producing zero-emission marine fuels based on hydrogen.

“We’re looking at energy and fuels that will allow for zero emission. A key option is electrofuels, such as green ammonia and green hydrogen, produced with renewable energy like solar and wind. The types of energy will depend on the natural endowments of the three countries chosen and their priorities and preferences,” she said.

The studies will last for two years, and the country-specific opportunity reports will be presented towards the end of the project. These will serve as a national blueprint for reducing emissions from shipping and generate examples that can be used for other developing and emerging economies.

Shipping’s decarbonisation is an integral part of the wider energy transition. Marine vessels account for about 4% of global oil demand, making shipping’s green transition both a climate necessity and a trillion-dollar market opportunity to develop the ships and fuels that will drive this transition.

Investment in the land-based energy infrastructure that is required to decarbonise shipping holds the potential to drive substantial development gains. A study by the Energy Transitions Commission and UMAS for the Getting to Zero Coalition Partnership estimates the cumulative infrastructure investment that is needed in the next 20 years for shipping to make the transition to zero-carbon energy sources to be about USD1–1.4 trillion. The land-based infrastructure and production facilities make up about 87% of the total.