It is true that shipping, along with aviation, is probably the most difficult sector in transport to fully decarbonise. One would assume that the EU is running discussions at high speed to bring the emissions of shipping, one of the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sectors of the global economy, down as fast as possible. Quite the opposite is the case though, with shipping gaining only very little attention in European climate policy. One directive including some points on sustainable shipping is the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, which states that “Member States shall ensure that the need for shore-side electricity supply for inland waterway vessels (…) and inland ports is assessed in their national policy frameworks.”[ii], which doesn’t set any binding target. Apart from that, NAIADES II, an EU-led project, aims to facilitate a modal shift in transport from road to sea, for many reasons, including environmental ones.
Regulations on how the EU shipping sector must cut down its emissions in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement are yet to be formulated. It seems like policy makers and industry are justifying inaction by claiming that research has yet to decide on the ideal decarbonisation solution for shipping. While the EU remains stagnant on sustainable shipping policies, stakeholders, ports and some of the EU’s neighbours are already a few steps ahead of us.
This is why Bellona decided to contribute to this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week 2019 with the event “Sailing towards Paris: Can Shipping be zero-emission?”, in an effort to bring together different key players in the shipping sector to present their work and developments which pave the way for zero emission shipping.
Since the shipping industry comes in many different shapes and sizes, the solutions for one segment do not necessarily apply to the other. Hence, the event was split into two sections with two separate panels. The panelists on our first panel, which was moderated by Magda Kopcynska from DG MOVE, presented and discussed their work on short sea shipping, covering short distance transport on EU inland waterways.
Christina Ianssen, Transportation Advisor at Bellona, started off with a presentation on battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell short sea ferries and the necessary infrastructure that is key for the Norwegian transition to sustainable shipping. Ianssen said that “short sea shipping is a maintenance free highway”, emphasising the fact that using ships and waterways to carry goods and people is a more efficient use of money and energy.
Another point Ianssen made was that from the Norwegian experience, battery electric ships are so energy efficient that they have a lower carbon footprint than conventional ships after only a few weeks of deployment, despite a higher carbon footprint upon production. Besides, solutions for shipping are not only limited to that sector. Quite the contrary, says Ianssen, there are synergies between using hydrogen for ferries and trucks. Having year-long experience in electrifying the shipping sector in Norway, we believe that it is important to bring some of the work done in Oslo regarding technologies and necessary policies for zero-emission shipping to the EU.
“Short-sea shipping is a maintenance-free highway”
Christina Ianssen, Bellona Foundation
Needless to say, the transition to zero emission shipping requires a number of changes, including developing the infrastructure needed for electric- or hydrogen- fueled ships.
Key-players influencing this infrastructural change are ports, which is why the next panelist invited was
Pieter Vandermeeren, Technical Manager Environment at the Port of Antwerp. Vandermeeren showed the important role the Port of Antwerp plays in the energy transition through providing the necessary infrastructure for low and zero-emission shipping, paving the way for the port to become an energy hub.
“The port is currently working on transforming into a multi fuel port that integrates fuels like hydrogen, electric power, LNG and methanol in its bunker market by 2050.”
Pieter Vandermeeren, Port of Antwerp
The last one on the short sea panel was Francisco de la Flor from GIE/GasNaturally, an EU-based gas lobby, that also co-organised 2 other events during EU Sustainable Energy week. He presented LNG as to the “most environmentally-friendly, readily available fuel for shipping today and in the foreseeable future”. However, that is a highly questionable statement, given the fact that LNG only reduces greenhouse gas emission by roughly 21%, at best, depending on upstream emissions and methane leakage. Besides, there are solutions which can actually bring short sea shipping to zero-emission. Here, LNG would only be an unnecessary distraction that would only delay the decarbonisation short sea shipping. At this stage, we cannot afford to slow down the reduction of emissions any longer. Where solutions are available, they should be applied. This event showcased existing solutions for this segment.
The second panel, which was moderated by Damien Meadows from DG CLIMA, revolved around the more complicated issue of how to decarbonise deep-sea shipping.
The first panelist, Jostein Bogen, Vice President and Global Product Manager Energy Storage & Fuel Cells at ABB Marine, demonstrated the pathway to carbon free shipping by stating that “15% of all ships being built are electric propulsion ships”, which will most definitely increase in the near future. Bogen is confident that hydrogen will play a big role in decarbonising deep-sea shipping, saying that there are already many projects planned regarding hydrogen for large ships.
“The ball has started to roll. Many more hydrogen projects with larger capabilities are currently being developed.”
Jostein Bogen, ABB
“If shipping was a nation, it would be the 7th largest emitter of GHGs”, was the opening statement of Faig Abbasov, Shipping Manager at Transport and Environment. T&E’s key recommendations for zero-emission shipping is to invest in shore-side electricity, making it mandatory under the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure (AFID) and to exempt electricity consumed for this purpose from taxes.
Along with targeted investment in zero-emission fuel supply infrastructure in ports, this will provide the needed infrastructure for zero-emission ships to replace conventional ships. At the same time, air emission standards in ports need to be tightened. As for LNG, its mandate needs to be discontinued under the AFID as investing in LNG infrastructure will either lead to stranded assets or continued combustion of fossil fuels. Abbasov concluded by reminding the audience that the IMO goal is not 50% emission reduction by 2050, but an emission reduction of at least 50% and aiming for full decarbonisation by the middle of the century.
“A mix of electricity with hydrogen and ammonia is the most realistic for deep-sea shipping”
Faig Abbasov, T&E
Tom Strang, Senior Vice President of Carnival, was the last deep-sea panelist. The international cruise ship company is aiming to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2030, relative to 2008. Currently, Carnival plans to do so by investing in LNG powered cruise ships and in shore power, which will save energy while at port. Given the difficulty to decarbonise deep-sea shipping such as Carnival’s fleet, Strang argued that the only option for cruise companies right now is to reduce emissions by replacing their conventional fleets with LNG ships. 10 out the 21 new ships Carnival recently ordered are LNG powered, which raises the question why Carnival is choosing the lower-emission alternative for less than half of its new fleet, given ships have long lifetimes and high usage rates. Additionally, for deep-sea shipping to be fully decarbonised, big shipping companies need to invest more in hydrogen and ammonia research, so that they become a reliable alternative as soon as possible.
Speaker’s presentation slides available here: