The urgency of the shipping fuel challenge is increasing as emissions regulations tighten

Exhaust fumes rising from a container ship funnel
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Emissions from shipping are expected to account for 2.1% of global carbon emissions this year, down from 2.3% year-on-year, due to slower speeds. The power generation sector is the largest single contributor of emissions, making up 39%. While shipping is a significant source of CO2 emissions in transport, it compares favourably to other modes, with road freight and passenger transport making up 16.2%, air transport roughly on par with shipping, and rail leading the way with just 0.2%. The shipping industry’s carbon emissions fell by about 14% between 2009 and 2019, despite shipping about 40% more cargo by the end of that period.

In contrast, emissions from road transport increased by about 20% and aviation by around 25%. However, the long-term development of the shipping sector is more uncertain, with initiatives such as slow-steaming, energy-saving retrofits, more efficient routing, various fuel options still under development, and fleet renewal being implemented. The industry faces greater challenges than other transport sectors, as road and rail have electrification roll-out and government targets, while up to 65% of the net-zero targets in aviation by 2050 are likely to be achieved by “drop-in” sustainable biofuels, and another 13% will come from hydrogen and electricity. A further 19% is covered by offsets and carbon capture, with the remainder being covered by operational and infrastructural efficiency gains.

Overall, shipping remains an important part of the global economy, and while it is a significant source of CO2 emissions, its efficiency and progress in reducing emissions make it comparatively favourable to other modes of transport. However, the industry still faces significant challenges in the long-term development of sustainable and green technologies.

Tags: Regulation,Europe,IMO,emissions


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