Producing future marine fuels – opportunities for all

Source: IMO

Developing countries are looking to seize the opportunities that decarbonizing shipping presents. “We need to prioritize decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors like shipping,” said Mr. James Mnyupe, Presidential economic adviser, Namibia, speaking during a side event at the United Nations climate conference in Egypt. Namibia has started implementing a portfolio of actions that are needed to profile the country as a future exporter of fuel for ships produced through renewable energy. This includes focusing on people – by establishing the Namibia Green Hydrogen Research Institute to enable people to acquire the right skills to get involved. Partnerships with other countries including Netherland and Belgium were crucial towards Namibia’s vision, Mr. Mnyupe said.

The COP 27 side event (10 November), organized by IMO in collaboration with UNCTAD, IRENA and the World Bank, explored opportunities for developing States in renewable fuel production for the maritime industry. “Decarbonization of international shipping requires a rapid shift from today’s predominant use of fossil fuels to zero-carbon alternatives,” said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim. “But shipping is also a key enabler of the global energy transition as it serves global trade and sustainable development in a safe, clean, efficient and affordable way.”

“Shipping will play a significant role in the transport and trade of renewable fuel,” said Mr. Francesco La Camera, Director General, IRENA

Chile is another country poised to support the decarbonization of the maritime sector by using its abundant renewable energy to provide future fuels, said Mr. Diego Pardow, Minister of Energy, Chile.

Brazil has a long history of producing biofuels (ethanol), with big ambitions to do more, said Mr. José Firmo, CEO, Port of Açu, Brazil. “Our ambitions have to be as big as the challenges. When the world is changing for all of us, we cannot stay doing the same things we used to do. This is a big challenge – but also a major opportunity,” he said, pointing to Brazil’s offshore wind projects with great potential for energy exports.

The World Bank is actively involved in studies and projects to develop green energy projects, said Mr. Nicolas Peltier, Global Transport Director, World Bank. These include green ammonia and green methanol, including in Morocco, Colombia and Brazil; and hydrogen in Namibia. The aim is to harness shipping’s decarbonization as a booster to countries’ ambitions to become key suppliers of green fuels. The shipping sector in return will not only serve as uptaker of green energy,  but can play a catalytic role as a primary mode of transport between  production and utilization sites,” he said. 

Ms. Nawal Yousif Alhanaee, Director of the Future Energy Department, United Arab Emirates, said the country was already updating its energy strategy towards renewable energy, with a focus on hydrogen, hydro-electric power and other renewable energy sources. Public-private partnerships and international collaboration are key, she said.   

The technologies are already there, said Concepción Boo Arias Chief Advisor, Climate & Green Transition Public & Regulatory Affairs, Maersk. “Green methanol is ready to use right now but the main challenge is to scale up production,” she said.

Decarbonization of shipping will be the driver of new jobs in shipping and ship building and fuels, said Mr. Geoffrey Ross Pyatt, Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, United States.

The imperative to act means that the energy transition needs to be achieved in just a few decades, with the majority of investment in shipping’s decarbonization taking place in land-based infrastructure, said Ms. Lynn Loo, CEO, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD), Singapore. She highlighted the need to address safety issues of fuels such as ammonia, highlighting pilot studies looking at lessons learned from pilots to demonstrate bunkering of ammonia. Seafarers and operators need to be trained in handling new fuels, she said.

Mr. Guy Platten, Secretary-General, ICS, pointed to the 10-point action to achieve a just transition for seafarers, launched by the Maritime Just Transition task force during COP 27.  (Read more here). Shipping will be an enabler of the energy transition, he said, and deployment of infrastructure needs to be accelerated so that ships can operate safely. A clean energy marine hubs initiative has been launched  with the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH).

“We are at a critical time for energy policy and energy politics,” said  Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General, UNCTAD. “The future hinges on investing in non-fossil fuels.” This is a great opportunity for developing countries with solar, wind, thermal, hydro or biomass energy. Innovative financing mechanisms will be needed, she said. “We cannot afford to move backwards – we need efforts of all to support decarbonization.”

Rear Admiral Reda Ahmed Ismail, Head of the Maritime Transport Sector, Egypt, said Egypt – as the host-country of COP 27 – was aiming to boost new and renewable energy sources and was targeting hydrogen production  with a focus on trade between Africa, Asia and Europe.  “We have to look forward and not stop – as we look for a better future on the same planet,” he said.

All speakers emphasized the need for collaboration and cooperation to achieve shipping’s transition. Secretary-General Lim highlighted the wide range of projects and a knowledge partnership mechanism that bring together IMO’s maritime expertise and an unrivalled global network, with partners providing experience, investment and financial expertise, other resources and in-kind support. “Collaboration and partnerships will help us in finding solutions to the issues we face today and IMO, as the leading global forum to regulate international shipping, will continue to support the decarbonization journey and promote a just and equitable transition to zero-carbon shipping, leaving no one behind,” Mr. Lim said.


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