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Press Release

UN Climate Conference – ICS has Vision for Zero Carbon Shipping Future

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is representing the world’s national shipowners’ associations and over 80 percent of the world merchant fleet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn this week.

6 November 2017

ICS will emphasise how the shipping industry is supporting the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop an ambitious CO2 reduction strategy.

ICS Director of Policy, Simon Bennett explained:

“ICS has a vision of zero CO2 emissions from shipping in the second half of the century. We are confident this will be achievable with alternative fuels and new propulsion technologies.”

ICS says its vision might be delivered with batteries or fuel cells using renewable energy, other new technologies such as hydrogen or even something not yet anticipated.

In the meantime, the shipping industry has proposed that IMO Member States should adopt a suitably ambitious goal for reducing total emissions from the entire international shipping sector by an agreed percentage by 2050.

ICS is pleased that a large number of IMO Member States have already come forward with detailed proposals. Several EU and Pacific island nations have jointly proposed that the sector should reduce total CO2 by as much as 70 percent by 2050.

Mr Bennett commented:

“Japan has set out in detail to IMO how a 50 percent total cut by 2060 might be achieved. In view of projections for future trade growth, an objective in this range, while still incredibly ambitious, therefore seems more realistic.”

He added:

“It will be for governments to agree the actual reduction number when they adopt an initial IMO strategy next April. And this is also going to have to address the legitimate concerns of major economies such as China and India about the implications for future trade and their sustainable development.”

Whatever is decided, ICS says that the entire world fleet is probably unlikely to enjoy global access to new alternative fuels for at least another 20 or 30 years. Moreover, population growth and further improvements to global living standards will probably determine that demand for shipping must continue to increase, as it is already by far the most carbon efficient form of commercial transport.

ICS says that, using a combination of technical and operational measures, the international shipping sector already appears to have reduced and held its total annual CO2 emissions at about 8 percent below its 2008 peak. This is despite an increase of about 30 percent in maritime trade, estimated in tonnes of cargo transported one nautical mile (tonne-miles) over the period up to the end of 2015.

ICS cautions that these latest estimates by third parties will have to be verified by the next official IMO Greenhouse Study in 2019 using the new IMO CO2 Data Collection System.

“They are nevertheless encouraging especially given the dramatic reduction in fuel prices since 2014. Moreover, a significant increase in marine fuel costs is expected in 2020 due to the mandatory global switch by the entire world fleet to low sulphur fuels. This should greatly incentivise, to the extent this is possible, the further reduction of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by ships.” said Mr Bennett.


The annual Conference of Parties (COP 23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (and the 2015 UNFCCC Paris Agreement) meets in Bonn from 6-17 November. On behalf of its member national shipowners’ associations, ICS will be participating in various official events inside the Conference.

The figures quoted on CO2 emissions and maritime trade are derived from a recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation and the UNCTAD Review of Maritime Transport 2017.

Amendments to the IMO MARPOL Convention, which have already entered into force worldwide, will require from January 2020 all internationally trading ships to use fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 percent or less (except in Emission Control Areas where they must already use fuel with a sulphur content of 0.1 percent or less).