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Zero-Emission Shipping Corridors Could Speed Green Technology Deployment

"marine shipping" Rotterdam

A declaration launched last month during the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow called for action to shift the global shipping industry from fossil to zero-emission fuels.

The Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors aims to speed up the establishment of zero-emission maritime routes to support the development and deployment of green technologies. It sets an initial target of six green shipping corridors by mid-decade and “many more corridors in operation by 2030.”

The list of 18 declaration signatories included Japan, United States, the United Kingdom, a number of Scandinavian and European countries, Australia, and Canada.

“The Declaration is the starting pistol to industry, to invest, research, and develop these technologies with confidence,” said session host and U.K. Shipping Minister Robert Courts.

Although shipping is already a relatively green way to move goods and resources around the world, it is nevertheless a giant industry that accounts for almost 3% of global emissions. That impact is set to grow substantially in the coming decades.

“If shipping were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter in the world,” said Danish Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht.

Green shipping corridors are seen as a way to focus and mobilize collaboration among industry, government, and other stakeholders, including zero emission fuel suppliers.

A new report from the Getting to Zero Coalition, released to coincide with COP 26 event, identified the first two prime candidates for green shipping corridors: the Japan-Australia iron ore routes, and the Asia-European Union container routes. According to coalition representatives Johanna Christensen of the Global Maritime Forum and Faustine Delasalle of the Mission Possible Platform, the routes were selected based on factors such as established stakeholder support, cost, and fuel availability.

Christensen said the establishment of green shipping corridors will help to create a “virtuous circle” of demand and supply of green fuels and technologies. Zero-emission fuels are expected to power at least 5% and as much as 10% of the fleet by 2030.

While green fuels are expected to cost much more than current supplies, she said shippers and customers have indicated they’re ready to share some of the premium, which could have a modest impact on the price of end products when they reach market. Governments are expected to participate in cost-sharing.

United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed his government’s support for the Clydebank Declaration, adding that President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill will help further the shift to green shipping. The U.S. was among the countries pressing the International Maritime Organization to adopt an official goal of 100% zero-emissions shipping by 2050. But Buttigieg noted that youth are “candidly skeptical” of the legitimacy of political action on climate change and need to see evidence of real commitment.

Danish shipping giant Maersk, a frontrunner in the shift to zero-emissions fuels, believes net zero by 2050 is “imperative,” said vice president Morten Bo Christiansen. Maersk will have one small fossil-free vessel by 2023, and expects to have eight large container ships in services by 2024 or 2025. The company has chosen to power its new fleet with green methanol, and has contracted for power-to-methanol production using electricity from a solar farm in Kassø, Southern Denmark.

With the cost of green fuels coming in three to four times higher than fossil, Christiansen called for a US$150-per-tonne carbon tax to level the playing field.

Danish Minister Engelbrecht said governments need to support green shipping, but shouldn’t try to pick a winner among fuel variants, including methanol, hydrogen, and ammonia. “The market will decide,” he said.

Alex Hewitt, chair of CWP Global, said his firm was participating in a 20-gigawatt renewable energy hub in Australia that will produce green hydrogen, which is most easily shipped in the form of ammonia.

Fiji, another Clydebank Declaration signatory, plans to extend the zero-emissions model to its tourism industry, including cruise ships, said climate minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Green tuna is another goal, he told participants.