IMO News

25 October 2022, 16:57

Second IMO Symposium on alternative low- and zero- carbon fuels

Second IMO Symposium on alternative low- and zero- carbon fuels: Alternative fuels symposium event banner-2

Challenges and opportunities presented by renewable fuel production for shipping, the focus of IMO Symposium

The second IMO Symposium on low- and zero-carbon fuels for shipping has been held (21 October) as a hybrid in-person and remote event at International Maritime Organization’s headquarters. The theme was "Ensuring a just and inclusive transition towards low-carbon shipping" and brought together more than 1,500 participants from Member Governments, IGOs, NGOs and the general public. The needs of and opportunities for developing countries in the process of energy transition towards low/zero-carbon alternative fuels for shipping were a particular topic of discussion. 

Watch the video: what do wind and solar farms on land have to do with shipping?  

Decarbonization strategy reaching a critical point  

Opening the Symposium, the IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim, emphasized that decarbonizing of international shipping is a priority for IMO whilst leaving no one behind. “We are all committed to act together in achieving the highest possible ambition”, he said.  

Mr. Lim thanked Member States for their efforts so far but cautioned, “We are now approaching a critical point towards finalizing the decarbonization strategy by mid-2023. Incentivizing the availability and scalability of low- and zero-carbon marine fuels and technologies and ensuring the ability of all Member States to take part in this transition is paramount.” 

As new technologies and new fuels are developed, he highlighted, too, the need for relevant training for the maritime workforce.

 Concluding his opening remarks, Mr. Lim pledged that IMO, as the leading global forum to regulate international shipping, would continue to support the decarbonization journey and to promote a just, equitable and inclusive transition. See here to read the IMO Secretary General’s speech.  

Before the first Symposium session got underway, Chile’s Minister of Energy, Diego Pardow, delivered a video address in which he said Chile was fully committed to IMO’s sustainable aims and pledged his country’s long-term effort to achieve decarbonization. 

 Overcoming barriers to global access to low- and zero-carbon marine fuels 

The Symposium’s first session, moderated by Katharine Palmer, Shipping lead, Climate Champions, focused on solutions to overcoming barriers to worldwide access to low- and zero-carbon marine fuels. She said “bold and fast actions”, including strong demand signals, are needed to bring about zero emissions ships and the availability of landside clean energy supply infrastructure to support them.   

In a remote presentation, Elizabeth Connelly, an Energy Technology and Transport Analyst with the International Energy Agency, warned that CO2 emissions from international shipping are projected to rise from 2019 levels and said that under IEA’s net zero scenario, policies are needed alongside innovative technology and fuel uptake.   

Policy recommendations comprise of increasing the stringency of operational carbon intensity standards to encourage the move to low-carbon fuels; an evaluation of well-to-wake emissions; the mandating of zero-emissions ships; and an acceleration of research, design and development.   

Kenneth Tveter, Head of Green Transition Group at the maritime sector strategists, Clarksons, highlighted the current scarcity of renewable fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia and methanol, and argued that energy saving technologies are likely to have a higher impact in the short- to medium-term whilst alternative fuels are matured. He also called for a holistic approach to shipping decarbonization, taking into account the decarbonization pathways of other energy-intensive sectors.  

The pricing of alternative shipping fuels was addressed by Jonah Sweeney from Argus, which provides pricing analysis of the marine fuels market. That market, he said, is becoming more complex but pointed out that the potential for alternative fuel bunkers is already there.  

Chris Chatterton, Chief Operating Officer at the Methanol Institute observed that methanol is currently available in more than 100 ports, and that clear policy direction was needed to scale up the production of renewable methanol for shipping.  

Closing the session, Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics at UNCTAD emphasized the enormous challenge the move to low-carbon shipping presents developing countries, especially when their recovery from the global financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic is already more fragile than in other parts of the world.  

She appealed for those countries that have the technology and capability to share them with those that don’t, and where short-term economic survival becomes the imperative. “There needs to be international solidarity...if you want to have a massive movement to low-carbon shipping”, she said.  

Opportunities for developing countries 

The potential opportunities that the transition to low- and zero-carbon marine fuels present to developing countries was the theme of the second session of the Symposium. It was moderated by John Fatuimoana Kautoke, Advisor to the High Commissioner of Tonga.  

There were presentations about Mexico’s green shipping strategy and ports sectors from Claudia Octaviano, Climate Change Mitigation Coordinator at INECC, Mexico, highlighting in particular the needs for technology transfer and a thorough assessment of co-benefits of shipping decarbonization, including from the renewable energy production.  

Waleid Gamaledien, Chairof the Suez Canal Economic Zone presented recent developments in Egypt regarding green bunkering infrastructure projects and the need for incentives for the transition to happen. He stated that in his view many countries will supply low- and zero-carbon marine fuels in the future, but that prices and volumes may vary, and in this context the approach of renewable energy hubs will have an advantage, with proximity to major shipping lanes being crucial. He also mentioned that important announcements in this regard would be made during COP27 to be held in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt), from 6 to 18 November.   

Lau Blaxekjær from Global Maritime Forum spoke about green corridors (or “route-based actions”) as a catalyst for decarbonization, arguing that a wide number of stakeholders should be involved and that learnings must be shared with the focus on scalability and on driving down costs. “We cannot afford not to involve developing countries in green corridors,” he said. 

Also advocating for the role developing countries could play was Stuart Neil, the International Chamber of Shipping’s Director of Strategy and Communications. He spoke of how they could “take ownership for the future”, as with, for instance, clean energy marine hubs.  

There were also presentations from Yanxian Cai from the China Classification Society on the feasibility of Onboard Carbon Capture Systems, and Voytek Chelkowski of Seamind Blue Ocean who pointed out the high costs of fuel and bunkering, as well as the importance of setting a clear decarbonization course to alleviate concerns about the disruption of global trade.  

Ensuring a ‘just and equitable’ transition towards low-carbon shipping 

The Symposium’s final session explored, as the moderator, Fernanda Millicay, Permanent representative of Argentina to the IMO, put it, “the just and inclusive bit”.  

Christiaan De Beukelaer, who lectures in Culture and Climate at the University of Melbourne, presented the outcome of his recent research on just and equitable transition in the shipping context. He stressed  environmental effectiveness and procedural fairness supported by social justice, global equity and technological inclusiveness. In stating that, he said, “The shipping industry shouldn’t be expected to solve all the world’s problems”, and added, “The energy transition is an opportunity to improve lives”.  

The particular challenges facing Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) were made plain in an impassioned and forthright presentation by Atina Schutz, a student researcher at the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport. Ms Schutz was addressing the Symposium from the Marshall Islands which, she reminded the audience, stands less than two metres above sea level and are particularly vulnerable to climate change.  

“I am in my early 20s, the generation that may pay the true cost of fossil fuels.” She went on, “Time is not our friend...We have no choice; we must act decisively now”. The investment opportunities for a responsible industry are enormous, she said, calling upon IMO to provide certainty of speed and trajectory of change using existing principles enshrined in international law to ensure an equitable transition.  

Further presentations were given by Goran Dominioni from the World Bank on carbon revenues from international shipping; Fabio da Silva Vinhado from Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy who outlined the benefits of producing biofuels, low-carbon hydrogen and methanol in Brazil; and Gerardo Borromeo, from Philippine Transmarine Carriers and a member of the Just Transition Task Force, who spoke about the need to make the maritime industry an attractive career option for the next generation. He noted that, whilst it takes less than three years to build a ship, to progress from cadet to master can take up to 14 years.  

Mehtap Özdemir, Secretary General of the Turkish Shipbuilders’ Association, was the last speaker in this session. She talked about career opportunities in shipbuilding, including new emerging roles in, for example, software development, data analysis and 3D scanning technologies. She also stressed the importance of clear goals in the IMO Strategy and the need to fund and launch pilot projects in all sectors of shipping decarbonization. 

In her conclusions, Ms Millicay highlighted that shipping decarbonization could indeed bring new opportunities for developing countries, but that it also entailed important challenges, which have to be addressed conscientiously in the policy-making, with an increased sense of international solidarity. 

Watch the full symposium here. 

Download presentations and photos:  

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