The Drive Towards Decarbonisation

Categories: NewsPublished On: March 25, 20211092 words33.1 min read

The UK must invest in new technologies and innovation in order to stay ahead of the global decarbonisation agenda and make shipping greener

Peter Aylott, Director of Policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping

Decarbonisation in the maritime industry is a particularly complex subject area. Although shipping has not been incorporated as part of the Paris Agreement, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set its own targets to ensure that the planet does not experience a 1.5°C rise in temperature between now and 2050. This would mean achieving a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by that deadline. The UK Chamber of Shipping agrees with this absolute reduction in emissions, just as we agree with our government’s own mandate to bring all GHG emissions in the UK to net zero via offsets by 2050.

Global shipping has already made tangible progress towards these goals as seen by the fact that, per modelling of ship fuels between 2008 and 2019 in the IMO’s 4th GHG study, we’ve seen a 30% rise in shipping volumes with only a 10% increase in GHG emissions from shipping. This laudable performance indicates that vessels have increasingly been designed to be far more efficient. More recently, we also had the creation of the new Sea Cargo charter, which will not only allow charters to choose greener vessels for their contracts, but will also boost transparency about the impact of shipping on climate change. There is also widespread adoption of the Poseidon Principles, which are a framework for ship finance that are specifically designed to incentivise decarbonisation in shipping.

The UK Chamber of Shipping and our members are committed to achieving our targets in the maritime industry, but we have to find the best ways in which to achieve this while maintaining trade, which is itself growing. We must keep in mind that the shipping industry delivers over 80% of the world’s goods but only produces about 2% of worldwide GHG emissions. Data from the UK Department for Transport’s Clean Maritime Plan shows that the UK’s shipping contribution (both international and domestic) accounts for 3.4% of our country’s overall GHG emissions.

And while 3.4% is still a significant amount, it is worth remembering that other transport industries – automobiles or aviation – create far higher levels of emissions. Furthermore, there is a lot more variation between ships (such as vessel type, equipment on board, routing, etc) than between types of cars or aeroplanes, meaning that maritime has a much more complex task when it comes to GHG reductions.

While decarbonisation has been high on the agenda for global shipping, Covid-19 has affected our current trajectory. Deliberations at the IMO were delayed, preventing evaluation or acceptance of the Fourth IMO GHG study, leaving us without formal indications of whether we’re moving forward. IMO MEPC 75, held last November, has critically endorsed the direction we’re going to take in regard to Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and carbon intensity indicators. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and the decisions made at IMO MEPC 76 are likely to determine the revised GHG strategy that is scheduled for adoption in 2023.
These decisions will need to offer clarity on whether carbon intensity indicator estimates will be made, which has the potential to fundamentally affect future fleet development structures for members of the UK Chamber of Shipping. In order to be prepared for 2023, decisions must be made now to transpose energy efficiency design requirements intended for new vessels onto existing ships. We are prepared to offer support to our diverse portfolio of members operating a plethora of different vessels ranging from offshore tugs to ferries, cruise ships, deep sea vessels, boat carriers, tankers, etc. Not only can we provide advice and funding guidance, but we also have the technical expertise to help to assess if options like ammonia, hydrogen, electric, or even bespoke solutions such as wind power, are suitable for member fleets. We also offer data modelling, which is a very useful tool for futureproofing assets.

We can already see that some countries have aligned themselves with the Paris Treaty and are forging ahead with investments in technology and new ways of operating – much of which is funded by financial support from local governments. The UK Chamber of Shipping feels that unless we keep our collective foot on the pedal with regard to developing technology, there is a risk that we will fall behind other countries very quickly – and we are keen to avoid this for our members.

Hence, a particular focus for us in the coming year is to ensure that there is government-based financial support for the transition to a low-emission fleet. It is very clear to us that without government financial support, we will move more slowly than needed – a view shared by Maritime UK. As a result, we jointly put in a bid in a recent comprehensive spending review for approximately a billion pounds to generate support for initiatives and new technologies to support the transition to zero emissions. These funds would be distributed through an organisation called MarI-UK.

Unfortunately, the review has been delayed by the Chancellor due to Covid-19, but once funds are forthcoming, we are prepared to support our members in every possible way – and we are prepared to assist with applications for funding and identifying areas for collaboration.
We are already seeing proof that our members are on the right track for net zero and there have been some fantastic technical achievements. There is already access to green hydrogen production in Orkney and some of our members have successfully transitioned to low-carbon fuels like LNG and LPG or even biofuels. We anticipate seeing a larger number of hybrid propulsion vessels and potentially even completely electric ships – and an ammonia-powered vessel is predicted to emerge in the next two to three years.

We at the UK Chamber of Shipping are hopeful that the close ties that we have, not only with our stakeholders, but also the United Kingdom Flag, other shipping associations and the IMO itself, will place us in an ideal position to keep pace with those at the forefront of shipping’s move towards decarbonisation.



We are prepared to offer support to our diverse portfolio of members operating a plethora of different vessels ranging from offshore tugs to ferries, cruise ships, deep sea vessels, boat carriers, tankers etc.

Photo: Sergei Zinovjev Able Seaman – Panorama of Clipper Brunello

Photo: Artur Vinokurov 3rd Officer – Before Hagbis Typhoon

Photo: Andrew Sassoil-Walker

Photo: Oleksii Barba Master – Officer taking a bearing