IMO symposium highlights pathways to shipping’s decarbonization



Various low- and zero-carbon marine fuels will allow shipping to meet its emissions targets, but more work is needed to address availability, safety and other issues.

The state-of-play of low and zero-carbon fuel options to ensure shipping’s path to decarbonization was set out in an online symposium hosted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on 9-10 February 2021. 

Speakers from industry and Governments outlined the different fuel options available to owners and operators which will allow the maritime sector to meet targets set out in the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships. 

The symposium explored the technical aspects of various low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels, and also looked at issues such as safety, regulation, pricing, infrastructural availability, lifecycle emissions, supply chain constraints, barriers to adoption and more.

Experts from across the globe presented state-of-the art research and innovation about a wide range of alternative fuels. Strong candidates which are already being trialed on ships include hydrogen, ammonia and methanol. Wind-propulsion was also highlighted.  

A number of speakers shared information about practical lessons learned from the use of the currently already available alternative fuels such as LNG and biofuels, while also highlighting the potential of further reducing the GHG emissions associated with their use (for instance reducing methane slip or increasing the use of bio-gas). 

“To reach a low- and zero-carbon future for shipping, we will need new technologies, new fuels and innovation,” IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim said in his opening remarks. “Exciting research and development into low- and zero-carbon marine fuels is already underway.

“IMO wants to further accelerate such initiatives by providing the global forum for sharing knowledge, to promote R&D, and to build partnerships between stakeholders, among public and private sectors, not only in the shipping industry and ports but also private and development banks, and academia at international, national and local levels,” Mr. Lim said.

Safety focus

The symposium highlighted the need to discuss and address industry-wide safety concerns around the use, bunkering and storage of emerging fuels, given the varying characteristics of each individual fuel. Multiple speakers highlighted the need for an intensified effort to further developing the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), in order to keep pace with new fuels making their way on to the market. 

The symposium highlighted the need to discuss and address industry-wide safety concerns around the use, bunkering and storage of emerging fuels, given the varying characteristics of each individual fuel. Multiple speakers highlighted the need for an intensified effort to further developing the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), in order to keep pace with new fuels making their way on to the market.  

IMO’s Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC), is responsible for the IGF Code. Work on amending and updating the Code largely takes place in that Sub-Committee, in cooperation with other IMO bodies as and when necessary. Member States are encouraged to share information with the CCC Sub-Committee to ensure that technical discussions are robust.

Crew training on safe handling of alternative fuels was also emphasized, as individual fuels have different requirements for temperature, viscosity, onboard storage and engine operations. 

Collaborative approach

Partnerships among stakeholders, together with clear policy and international regulations, were recognized as key-factors in advancing towards decarbonization of international shipping 

The IMO is keen to ensure that no country is left behind when it comes to the energy transition and is working to ensure that there are multiple opportunities for information exchange between Member States. IMO will play an active role as the global regulator of shipping and also as a promoter and coordinator of initiatives related to low/zero carbon alternative fuels.

“We should not forget that the energy transition of shipping has both sides, a necessity and an opportunity,” said Sveinung Oftedal, symposium moderator. Shipping decarbonization is everyone’s business and cooperation across the maritime community and beyond would be essential to success. IMO stands ready to continue to be a global platform for knowledge sharing and promoting alternative fuels.”

Downloads

Visit the symposium page including presentations here

Secretary General Kitack Lim’s speech can be read here 

Watch the recording of the symposium on the IMO YouTube channel

IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. 

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