Blog: Decarbonisation of the offshore shipping sector

Last Thursday (03 October) I had the pleasure of attending my first Chamber organised event up in Aberdeen on the decarbonisation of the offshore shipping sector.  Having members from the Department for Transport (DfT), Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), The British Ports Association (BPA) and The UK Chamber of Shipping, both presenting and sitting on the panel, brought an interesting set of perspectives on how to decarbonise the sector.

It was clear to see that the different stakeholders on the panel had varying thought on how to decarbonise. There were a range of opinions and ideas coming from government, the shipping industry, the energy industry and the ports. But what was great to see, and, what I view as the best method going forward, were discussions around a holistic approach from all areas to ensure the UK reached its ambitious 2050 net-zero carbon goal.

Is it fair to say that the government should be the main contributors to helping the offshore industry decarbonise? They were the body who launched the Maritime 2050 Strategy which affects all the sectors of the maritime world. It was clear to see that DfT are attempting to push it up the political agenda. Investing in new technologies, looking at ways in which they can fund future projects in a more financially sustainable way, and getting to grips with the need to act on decarbonising as quickly and efficiently as possible due to the extensive life of vessels, and the short amount of time before we welcome in the year 2050.

In my opinion, and I am sure in many other people as well, shipping is the most international sector of all. It is integral to the way we live our globalised lives, and it is clear to see that there is no simple answer to any of the environmental issues the industry faces. The panellists voiced the difficulties of the matter at hand. It is a ‘chicken and egg situation’ (a phrase used more than I would ever expect it to be in this industry) on all levels. How do you start? Is Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) the correct answer to meet the IMO’s short term goal, or even the fast-approaching Sulphur 2020 regulations? How much will ports have to invest to be able to host LNG fuelled ships, and why should they fork out this money if it is realistically only a bridging fuel between now and finding the holy grail of clean propulsion? Will the shipping industry be negatively affected by not being able to hybridise or even build their vessels to the standards required? Are ammonia or hydrogen the correct solutions? To sound like a broken record, how will this enormous challenge be met?

These are all valid points, and points which were spoken about during this panel discussion. The complexity of this topic is vast, and no one has the answers right now. However, from what was discussed, it was clear to see that the varying stakeholders were willing to reach these goals. As stated earlier, it is a chicken and egg situation, will government find ways to de-risk the decarbonisation efforts from the industry giving them safer opportunities to test new technologies? Or will it have to be at the risk of industry? The way DfT spoke about these issues, suggested that they wanted to help the industry as much as possible, they just needed to find ways of making it financially viable in our current climate.

This blog post, as the event was, was riddles with questions which I see as a positive thing. Chamber members expressed their opinions to work more closely on new studies. OGUK and the Chamber agreed to work more closely to help propel the efforts being made to decarbonise, and the DfT proclaimed their willingness to help the different sectors get to the level the industry needs to be. 

Maybe this is old news, but the more conversations we have about decarbonisation, the quicker we will be able to reach our goals and shine the light on a decarbonised UK maritime industry, showing the world we are still at the forefront of innovative, collective technology. I would say a great outcome from a meeting where no one may have had the answers, but there was definite collective will to find them, and it will be exciting to see what comes next. 

For more information contact:

Michael Igoe

Policy Advisor

T | 0207 417 2836/ M|07391 865499