UK Launches Competition to Spur Research on Low-Carbon Shipping

Three harbor tugs at Liverpool, 2018 (N. Johannes / CC BY SA 4.0)
Three harbor tugs at Liverpool, 2018 (N. Johannes / CC BY SA 4.0)

Published Mar 22, 2021 1:46 AM by The Maritime Executive

The government of the UK has launched a $27 million competition to support new technologies for decarbonizing ships and seaports. The funding is aimed at the development of prototype vessels and port infrastructure that could be scaled up once proven. The government hopes that new technology sponsored by the R&D fund will help the UK "build back greener" from the pandemic.

"We have a proud shipbuilding history and, together with industry, I am determined to build on that as we look to develop the innovations of the future and meet our net-zero target," said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. "From electric boats to hydrogen ports, we will change the way this country sails forever, and bring jobs and prosperity to the UK."

Decarbonizing subsectors

Maritime Minister Robert Courts confirmed the new program ahead of the launch of two government-funded studies on achieving net-zero in two sectors adjacent to shipping - pleasure craft and offshore wind. Leisure boats and yachts are worth about $2.2 billion in annual export revenue for the UK, and the sector employs about 40,000 people nationwide.

"The recreational craft sector encompasses a wide range of vessel types, and there are unique challenges that need to be overcome. A combination of targeted innovation support, cross-industry collaboration and regulatory and financial intervention will be needed to accelerate the development and uptake of low carbon technologies," said Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust.

A separate study is being developed on the offshore wind sector, produced in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and Workboat Association. It will bring a coalition of industry partners together to break down the barriers to moving all operational and maintenance vessels working in the North Sea offshore wind sector to zero emissions by 2025.

"This report will make clear that the North Sea’s offshore wind and maritime industries, made up of wind farm, vessel and port operators, are united in their determination to decarbonize their operations," said Andrew Jamieson, ORE Catapult chief executive. "We are confident that the UK supply chain has the knowledge, endeavor and innovation to support this ambition while creating jobs and growth in coastal communities."

Image at top: Three harbor tugs at Liverpool, 2018 (N. Johannes / CC BY SA 4.0)