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Cross-collaborative solutions forged at maritime decarbonisation summit

The ICS Shaping the Future of Shipping Summit sets out priorities and next proactive decarbonisation steps for the industry

8 July 2022
Esben Poulsson, former Chairman, ICS, addresses attendees at the ICS Shaping the Future of Shipping summit 2022. Credit: ICS

Maritime leaders issued clear calls during COP26 for greater collaboration and industry-led action to ensure decarbonisation targets can be achieved. Heeding those calls, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) convened a summit of more than 100 CEOs and government representatives on 21 June to push forward international, cross-sectoral collaboration and agree to tangible actions required to accelerate the industry’s transition to net zero carbon fuels.

Three key priorities emerged from the day-long summit: the urgent need to establish a global market based measure, the rapid prioritisation of research and development for alternative fuels and propulsion technologies, and, vitally, the need for development and access to clean fuels, not only for shipping but for all global transport industries.

Mark Cameron, Executive Vice President and COO, Ardmore Shipping, attended the summit and noted a “seismic shift” that has taken place in the maritime industry. “I am seeing full engagement and a push for change for the first time, “ he said. “And that seismic shift is coordinated. This is not just a coalition of the willing but it is outcomes focused, it is not political but looking purely at solutions.”

One such solution was unanimously agreed to by attendees at the Shaping the Future of Shipping summit with the announcement of a practical public/private cross-sectoral project to establish a Clean Energy Marine Hubs Taskforce. It will work to bring together different parts of the transport and energy value chain, including ports, energy companies, and shipping companies, to coordinate and join decarbonisation efforts and unlock investment and infrastructure required to provide access to green fuels in key logistical regions.

Clean Energy Marine Hubs 

The first priority will be to take forward the proposed Clean Energy Marine Hubs (CEMH) with a view to launch the hubs initiative by September’s Clean Energy Ministerial meeting of 29 energy ministers from leading governments. The creation of global hubs at key ports around the world would help develop stronger cross-sector collaborations that link the energy sector with the maritime value chain, enabling policy makers and industry stakeholders to quickly unlock clean energy deployment.

As highlighted in the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) report, Fuelling the Fourth Propulsion Revolution, shipping will not only require access to vast amounts of zero carbon emission fuels – up to all the world’s current renewable energy output – but will also play a fundamental role in delivering these fuels globally and act as an enabler for governments and industries to achieve their climate targets. It stresses the need for the “establishment of international cooperation projects” to achieve these goals.

“Currently, energy companies, ports, governments, shipowners and other key transport sectors and stakeholders have been largely working in silos. Each segment has its own priorities but also holds its own unique knowledge and understanding of what will be required to decarbonise the world.” Guy Platten, Secretary General, ICS, said. “This taskforce gives us a mandate to bring major players together, to share knowledge, collaborate, and importantly de-risk investments to take real-world action and create the necessary infrastructure in the most strategic locations to ensure we can work together not only to decarbonise our own industries but the world.”

Ports will play a pivotal role in the Task Force and investments for the transmission of alternative fuels will dictate future shipping routes and support the development of green corridors. Patrick Verhoeven, Managing Director of the International Association of Ports and Harbours, said: “The global port community has a responsibility to offer refuelling hubs for maritime transport and also has a great opportunity to facilitate the trade of green fuels. No one industry can achieve the world’s decarbonisation goals independently; platforms such as this which promise to bring us together will be crucial to making those goals a reality.”

Next steps for the taskforce are already underway to map out the key stakeholders required for the initiative and outreach to grow and develop the network, ahead of the intended formal launch in September.

Platten added: “This is the start of an important process. It is not just another declaration or commitment but is real world work that is now underway and will form a vital piece of the global decarbonisation puzzle.”

Market based measures

The pressing need for a market-based measure to help decarbonise shipping via a carbon price on emissions was emphasised in discussions throughout the summit. In 2021, industry groups submitted a proposal to shipping’s UN regulatory body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), to bring forward negotiations around a global MBM by several years. Now, representatives of shipping’s value chain have doubled down on the urgent establishment of this measure, viewing it as key to reach the industry’s ambitious decarbonisation goals.

“There was a clear drive from participants that the shipping industry needs a market based measure and it needs one now,” said Stuart Neil, Director of Strategy and Communications at ICS.

Attendees of the conference also agreed to rapidly prioritise R&D for innovating low and zero-carbon fuels and technologies. In the absence of an IMO led proposal to advance R&D industry leaders committed to take forward unilateral approaches to advance this initiative and explore other forms of collaborative coalition.

Clear direction

While MBMs, R&D and access to fuels were topics that all attendees aligned on, multiple discussions were had across a range of topics including how to achieve a just transition to the role of insurance in shipping’s decarbonisation, that will pose further collaborative opportunities.

Platten noted: “There was a richness of discussion and eagerness for knowledge sharing that created myriad ideas and avenues to go down and we can work collaboratively on. The role of ICS and the new Clean Energy Hub Taskforce will be to pull that work together, give it purpose, direction and, importantly, create tangible results.”

Those in attendance all shared notes of optimism on how committed maritime leaders are to take decisive action on decarbonisation. Speaking to ICS Leadership Insights at the end of the summit, Bud Darr, Executive Vice President and MSC and ICS Board Member, concluded: “The quality of discussions at the Shaping the Future of Shipping summit was strong. We have come far as a shipowner community, and are having massively different conversations than even four months ago. The nature of items owners are willing to fully commit to is indicative of a genuine desire to decarbonise by 2050 and today reinforced that momentum.”