NorShipping: It’s time to get ahead of the curve

Guy Platten, CEO of the UK Chamber, reflects on this year's NorShipping event in Oslo, which heralded a new era of digitalisation and ended with an unexpected wake-up call for environmentalism in shipping

norshipping 2017 new

Shipping is going to fundamentally change in the next 10 to 15 years – that was the main take-away from this year’s NorShipping event in Oslo.

Digitisation and “disruptive” technologies are what will change our industry most, as delegates heard. And what is interesting is how many technology companies from outside our industry are now vying crack into the maritime market. 

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is just one such company, which has developed passenger transport and is now looking using the same technology to carry freight.

The company has developed vacuum tubes that use ‘passive magnetic levitation’ to carry people and goods in “floating” cars at speeds of over 1,000 kmph. This could be employed carry containers at ports to improve connectivity with the hinterland and improve efficiency. 

Technological change in the shipping industry is inevitable. We need to be ahead of the game – and if companies aren’t, they’re going to end up being disadvantaged over time. In walking around the massive trade exhibition at NorShipping, it was clear to me that we are on the cusp of that massive technological step change – there’s definitely a sense of momentum building.

Where technology is concerned, shipping seems to be learning from other industries. It certainly makes it timely that we’re having our own event on digitisation here at the Chamber in July, which will provide another opportunity to discuss and learn about the way things are going, especially if you weren’t able to attend NorShipping (more information here).

This week, I also attended DNV-GL’s Green Coastal Shipping Programme (GCSP) seminar. The scheme was launched in September and is a partnership between Norway’s public sector and shipping industry. 

The GCSP aims to help Norway reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. The country hopes to establish the world’s most environmentally-friendly coastal shipping sector, where vessels will be powered fully or partially by batteries, LNG or other eco-friendly fuels. Trials have already begun.

We certainly have things to learn from the Norwegian model and we’re going to look into what ideas can be put into effect here in the UK, particularly in developing the green agenda as part of a partnership between stakeholders and government. It’s something that fits in well with what the UK Chamber is trying to do with other initiatives, so hopefully we can extend that to green shipping too. 

NorShipping officially closed on Thursday last week, the same day that US president Donald Trump announced that America intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. I would be remiss not to remark on this, especially with the findings from the GCSP’s trials still ringing in my ears. 

Climate change is real and we need to take real action in order to slow its effects – we can all agree on that. 

When the Paris Agreement was signed at the COP21 meeting last year, there was disappointment that shipping was not included in the agreement. 

What we often overlook is the proactive attitude that shipping has had toward environmental regulation and targets. We haven’t shied away and we haven’t shirked our green responsibilities. We have instated limits on the sulphur content of marine fuel and soon we will adopt a new fuel consumption reporting programme for every vessel in the world that trades internationally. What is more, we are keen to set tougher new targets for limiting carbon emissions.

We can still do more, of course. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), of which the UK Chamber is a member, has been vocal in calling for the IMO to do more to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from shipping. At the recent ICS AGM (read our report here), members agreed to set new objectives in reducing CO2 emissions from shipping, which will be proposed in a paper submitted to the next IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) and its intercessional meeting. The objectives aim to match the ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change, while keeping CO2 reduction and regulation in the hands of the shipping industry itself. 

Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord doesn’t stop us from striving to further improve our environmental performance. 

Shipping isn’t perfect but we’re actively trying to improve and we’re busy developing mechanisms to monitor and regulate our performance. If we are outraged by the US leaving the Paris deal then let’s use that passion and resolve to improve further. Hopefully this rallying call will be heard by the IMO and will be reflected in more stringent emissions legislation.

We already have the passion – let’s get to work. 

For more information contact:

Holly Birkett

Communications Manager (content & digital)

020 7417 2868 / 07807 790058