Guest blog: The IMO GHG Strategy needs collaborative research and development

In this guest blog, Jaap Gebraad from SEA Europe, the Shipyards and Maritime Equipment Association, explains why working together is the only way to meet the ambitions of the IMO's 2050 Greenhouse Gas Strategy

Large purple ship image

Reducing greenhouse emissions from shipping will require new technologies and energy containment systems, such as industrial-scale batteries. But developing and implementing zero-emission technologies in shipping will not be simple. Often, these technologies will need to be marinised before they can be used onboard vessels. Meanwhile, new legislation must be drawn up and the necessary infrastructure deployed. 

On top of this, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to decarbonising shipping – every sub-sector of the maritime transport industry may need a different solution. Finally, retrofitting new equipment like batteries will make the challenge even more complicated in most cases. On top of all of this, digitalisation will need to play a big role in the transition towards a zero-emission transport sector.

These developments require large-scale research and development (R&D), deployment activities and support. Although the sector might be able to co-fund part of these activities, the sector will not be able to execute the R&D on its own expenses due to the fact that transport rates have only slightly increased after the financial crisis, and the maritime transport sector has had to make significant capital expenditures to meet an increasing number of new rules and regulations. 

Meeting the ambitions of the IMO's Greenhouse Gas Strategy by 2050 will need a collaborative approach. Energy suppliers, shipyards, maritime equipment suppliers, competent authorities and other key stakeholders should be involved, so that the technology can be implemented directly following the R&D developments. 

It is therefore that SEA Europe, in close cooperation with the industry, is in constant dialogue with the EU stakeholders to ensure that the waterborne transport sector will get the European Commission’s new funding programmes in proper place for the period 2021–2027. 

Although SEA Europe supports the fact that the European Commission proposes increasing the budgets of programmes like Horizon Europe and the Connecting Europe Facility, it will require substantial effort to ensure that our sector is properly included in order to be able to prepare itself for the future. 

In addition, SEA Europe is the secretariat of the Waterborne Technology Platform, which is developing the Strategic Research Agenda for the coming years. Shipbuilders are also participating in the IMO dialogue via the Community of European Shipyards Association (CESA).

What is uncertain for the moment is which form of participation the UK will have in the European Commission's next financing programmes. One thing is sure: there will be a way of cooperating by means of these mechanisms with maritime stakeholders from other European countries. 

And cooperation will be key in reaching the targets set.