ICS: Shipping Cannot Achieve Climate Goals Using Fossil Fuels

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Published Feb 12, 2019 8:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The International Chamber of Shipping has concluded that it will not be possible to achieve the IMO's target for greenhouse gas cuts using fossil fuels. 

The determination is in line with recent research on the greenhouse-gas profile of liquefied natural gas, the primary alternative marine fuel on the market today. Studies have found that LNG offers a relatively small 6-10 percent GHG reduction compared with HFO (and, with certain engine designs, the possibility of a GHG increase). By comparison, IMO aims for a 50 percent cut in GHG emissions by 2050. 

"The ICS Board agreed that the industry cannot achieve the 2050 GHG reduction target using fossil fuels," said ICS chairman Esben Poulsson. "Over the next decade we are therefore going to require massive investment in research and development of zero CO2 emitting propulsion systems and other technologies which don’t yet exist in a form that can be readily applied to international shipping, especially in deep sea trades."

As recently as two years ago, ICS leadership had indicated that change was certain in the long run, but shipping would still have to rely on fossil fuels for decades. "Governments need to recognize that many ships will remain dependent on fossil fuels probably at least until around 2050,” Simon Bennett, ICS Director of Policy, at a bunkering forum in Athens in November 2017. “But the momentum created by the Paris Agreement on climate change means that the wholesale switch to alternative fuels and propulsion systems will be relentless and inevitable.”

Short term changes

In the short term, ICS now endorses IMO's goal to tighten the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) standards - which have long been criticized by environmental groups as too lax - and to strengthen Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) requirements. 

“We need IMO to make progress with short term GHG reduction measures as soon as possible to achieve measurable additional GHG reductions by 2023,” said Poulsson. “But while these short term measures are very important we want IMO to move on to developing the critical long term measures that will truly help the industry to decarbonize completely.”