At the launch of the sixth "synthesis report" from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in March 2023, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued his starkest warning yet on the state of the climate crisis.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is at their highest in at least 2 million years, he said, adding that the world is facing a ticking time bomb.
Solving the existential crisis “will take a quantum leap in climate action,” said Mr Guterres. “In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts—everything, everywhere, all at once.”
Ahead of the revision of the IMO Initial Strategy for the Reduction of GHG Emissions from ships in July 2023 – which could include strengthened levels of ambition, such as a net-zero by 2050 target – it is increasingly urgent for the maritime industry to recognise the urgency in tackling the climate crisis.
Singapore, for instance, has unveiled its own Green Plan 2030, which is a national movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. In October 2022, Singapore also raised its national climate target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
During the recent Committee of Supply debate, Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance & Ministry of Transport said that from 2030, new harbour craft operating in Singapore port waters must be “fully electric, be capable of using B100 biofuels, or be compatible with net-zero fuels such as hydrogen.” These efforts will support Singapore’s push towards net-zero by 2050.
But obstacles remain, including the adaption of new technology, implementation of sustainable operations, and the closing of green financing gaps. These challenges will be a focus of discussions and debates at the Singapore Maritime Week 2023 (SMW).
In particular, Day 4 of SMW will see IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim deliver a keynote address where he is expected to outline the progress and future challenges of global maritime decarbonisation efforts so far.
SMW will also see a host of speakers tackling and presenting on green fuels at the 2nd Accelerating Decarbonisation Conference (27 April). The panel on Fuels Options and Strategies to Accelerate Decarbonisation will look beyond the development of green fuels and into the finer details of energy mix, standards, and market mechanism.
Decarbonisation and green maritime technology
In preparing for the climate crisis ahead, it is critical for the tools to be developed. To this end, the growth of alternative and low- and zero-carbon fuels is a big part of the solution.
Whether it is biofuel, methanol or hydrogen-based fuels such as ammonia, the race is on to develop both the processes and technology that can adapt to these new and green forms of energy.
These will be debated on Day 2 of the MarineTech Conference (26 April) during the Decarbonisation and Green Technologies session. The panel on Digitalise to Decarbonise –Green Technologies Driving Vessel Optimisation and Smart Emissions Management, in particular, will focus on digital tools that will enable the industry’s move towards IMO 2025 targets.
But while the tools are already present, the importance of having collective will should not be underestimated. To this end, momentum has clearly shifted. Governments and companies are working together to move towards a green future.
“Efforts to change will always be more difficult in a challenging economic environment, but we don’t see the growing political and societal pressure towards decarbonisation changing,” said Mr Joshua Politis, Deputy Managing Partner at maritime advisory firm Transport Capital. “We see the need for the maritime sector to decarbonise as permanent and irreversible.”
Indeed, such opinions reflect the commitments made in the sector to decarbonise. This was highlighted at COP27, where the shipping industry launched the Green Shipping Challenge. More than 40 announcements were made on issues, such as green corridors and zero-emission fuels, involving dozens of ports and countries. The goal is to align the sector with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius.
Shipping veteran Mr Esben Poulsson, former Chairman of The International Chamber of Shipping, agreed “The decarbonisation train is in motion, the question is whether you are on it or not. The way ahead is determined.”
Ms Caroline Yang, President of the Singapore Shipping Association, is optimistic about the sector’s decarbonisation drive and sees it making progress. “Every year, the conversations on decarbonisation take on a new trajectory and become more mature and in-depth. Decarbonisation is here and it is happening.”
She continued: “The success of decarbonisation of the maritime industry requires the buy-in of all stakeholders in this industry, not only the ship owners and ship operators but also the international regulatory organization for shipping: IMO (playing field must be levelled between different blocs as they differ in maturity), governments, charterers, ship financiers. All these pieces in the puzzle need to come together.”
At the 2nd Accelerating Decarbonisation Conference, there will be a discussion panel titled #CEOs Vision: Delivering Net-Zero, featuring leaders of several of the largest maritime companies on how we can all get to net-zero.
Green finance is also a crucial part of the conversation. With more companies riding on the wave of green bonds, sustainable financing, and ESG-anchored financial tools, the question for many is whether there is enough supply to meet demand. The Maritime Services Leaders Forum will delve deeper into The Current State of Green Financial Markets for Shipping on Day 4 (27 April) of SMW 2023.
Projecting ahead, Mr Poulsson said the will and financial commitments are there but the “difficulty and uncertainty” lies in thein figuring the ‘how’.
“Recently, the Republic of Korea has been looking seriously at nuclear energy to power ships,” he said. “Five years ago, if you mentioned the word ‘nuclear’, people would run to the door. But if that tech is perfected, you can fill a ship once and run it for 30 years.”
Such out-of-the-box thinking will be crucial in unlocking new ways of meeting the decarbonisation goals set by the IMO.
The Singapore Maritime Week, an annual gathering of the international maritime community to advance key industry issues and exchange ideas to bring the sector forward, will be held from 24 to 28 April 2023.
Register your participation at https://registration.mvents.asia/SMW2023/