Decarbonization in Shipping: Looking Beyond Fuel for the 2020s

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DNV, a leading classification society, has released its latest outlook report on the maritime industry’s progress towards decarbonization. The report highlights the slow progress and significant challenges faced by the industry, including high costs, a shortage of low-carbon fuels, a lack of infrastructure, and the need for shared investment in new technologies. DNV emphasizes that focusing solely on fuel is not enough and tangible actions are needed to reduce emissions. While the transition to new fuels is underway, with an increase in orders for LNG, LPG, and methanol-dual fuel engines, only 0.1 percent of the fuel used by merchant shipping is currently biofuels.

DNV warns that time is running out to identify and resolve barriers to decarbonization. They acknowledge that decarbonization will increase costs for shipowners, impacting the commercial attractiveness and long-term profitability of operations. DNV believes that a dependence on low-carbon alternative fuels alone will not be sufficient, as the shipping industry will face competition from aviation, road transportation, and other hard-to-decarbonize sectors. The report identifies basic measures such as speed reduction, route optimization, and hull and propeller cleaning as immediate fuel-saving measures, but also emphasizes the urgent need for low-emission technologies.

DNV examines six technologies that are gaining attention and adoption in the industry, including solid oxide fuel cells, liquified hydrogen, wind-assisted propulsion, and air lubrication systems. They also consider longer-term technologies such as onboard carbon capture and nuclear propulsion. DNV concludes that an integrated approach, incorporating regulations, fuel supply, and technologies, is necessary for the maritime industry to achieve decarbonization. They emphasize the need for the cost of decarbonization to be shared throughout the maritime value chain and suggest mechanisms like green corridors to provide support during this critical decade.

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