maritime October 2019

The burning issue of maritime decarbonisation

This week has seen the Global Maritime Forum’s 2019 Annual Summit take place in Singapore – a gathering of leaders from across the maritime sector to address the key issues facing the industry.

High on the agenda was discussion of the Getting to Zero Coalition announced at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York in September – a shared ambition to have commercially viable zero emission vessels operating along deep-sea trade routes by 2030.

But as it navigates the route to decarbonisation of shipping, can the maritime sector learn from other industries that have already embarked on their own journeys to a carbon-free future?

Ofgem's latest annual State of the Market report states that UK greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 42% since 1990 – more than any other large advanced economy.

The energy regulator says this is due largely to the decarbonisation of electricity generation. This has been driven by government policies – such as the carbon price, which penalises coal plants, in particular – and the huge growth in wind and solar power. Renewables generated a record 33% of UK electricity last year.

Transport continued to be the largest single source of carbon emissions, according to the Ofgem report, although emissions fell slightly last year (3%). This was partly due to an increase in the number of alternative fuel vehicles, which now account for 2% of the licensed cars on the country's roads.

In his speech at the Shell Energy Summit in London earlier this year, CEO Ben van Buerden said co-operation is going to be crucial on the road to decarbonisation. For the maritime sector, that means shipping companies, ports, fuel suppliers, ship builders, governments: all of us working together.

Ben highlighted the essential role played by governments in all sectors – through regulation, well-designed taxes, incentives such as electric car grants, and government-led carbon-pricing mechanisms to encourage low-carbon choices.

And he said realistically, the route to decarbonisation will start with a handful of big players in any given sector joining with energy supply companies with the determination to act towards net zero in that sector and establishing a pathway to reaching it.

So what does this all mean for the shipping industry? Alongside government policies, two key themes for all sectors seem to be co-operation and innovation. And that's where our state-of-the-art spatial big data platform comes into its own.

It could, for example, monitor the behaviour of marine vessels to build a picture of their movements, help optimise shipping routes and identify activities that are key to reducing emissions. Visualising and exploring a global picture of harmful emissions makes it possible to compare ports around the world and share best practice.

By creating and analysing one central data store, the platform makes it possible to innovate from a position of strength – signposting the route to a decarbonised future.

Also read: Optimising shipping routes: a data-driven route to doing more with less

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