Carbon targets can only be met with ‘Zero CO2’ fuels

Jun 01 2018

The ambitious CO2 reduction targets set by the IMO for 2050 can only be delivered with the global rollout of zero CO2 fuels and propulsion systems, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warned.

Speaking at the annual Summit of Transport Ministers hosted by the OECD International Transport Forum in Leipzig recently, ICS deputy secretary general, Simon Bennett, said: “As well as being consistent with the 1.5 deg climate change goal, the IMO targets are far more ambitious than what has so far been agreed for aviation, or indeed the commitments made by governments with respect to the rest of the global economy under the Paris Agreement. But the shipping industry greatly welcomes the IMO agreement because it gives us the signal we need to get on with the job of de-carbonising the sector completely as soon as possible.” 


With respect to the IMO goals set for 2050 – a 70% efficiency improvement as an average across the fleet, and a total CO2 cut by the sector of at least 50% by 2050 (regardless of expected growth in maritime trade) - Bennett said; “These targets can realistically only be achieved with the development and global roll out of genuine zero CO2 fuels.


“To be clear, zero CO2 fuels means radical and as yet unproven technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells using ammonia or methanol or batteries powered using renewable energy. While LNG or biofuels will play an important part in the transition, we only really see these as interim solutions that won’t deliver the ambitious targets which IMO has now set for 2050. 


“While we are confident new zero CO2 technologies will eventually deliver they are not yet fully ready for maritime application, and certainly not yet for deep sea trades.


“The development of these new technologies will require co-operation between all relevant stakeholders, particularly shipbuilders, engine manufacturers and classification societies, which are the repositories of the industry’s technical knowledge. But when it comes to pure research into new propulsion systems, this has to be facilitated by governments within a framework that needs to be developed by the UN IMO.


“To kick start new technologies, we also may need to make some compromises. For example, in order to develop hydrogen propulsion systems, and gain experience of the serious technical challenges, we may need to initially permit use of hydrogen that is still derived from fossil feedstock rather than renewables, a technology which is not quite there yet, though probably not insurmountable in the longer term,” he said.


With regard to short term measures, Bennett said the industry recognises that there is a political need among many governments for new IMO regulations that will start achieving further CO2 reductions from the sector before 2023, so that the industry stays on track to improve efficiency, as an average across the sector, by at least 40% by 2030, as also agreed by IMO.


The next round of IMO discussions will take place in October, 2018 in order to consider a list of possible candidate measures for CO2 reduction, and the industry is planning to make some detailed submissions to that meeting.


“We are particularly focused on further improvements to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships, which already requires a 30% efficiency improvement for ships built in 2025, compared to 2013, perhaps moving forward the implementation dates that currently apply for certain ship types, such as containerships,” explained Bennett. “ICS is open to how shipowners can best optimise speed management and also use efficiency indicators to improve ship performance, possibly through strengthening the existing mandatory requirement for ships to use a Ship Efficiency Management Plan (SEMP), perhaps linking this to some kind of mandatory external audit. However, we are very nervous about measures, which will be far too complicated to administer and which may cause serious distortion to shipping markets, such as publishing supposed operational efficiency indicators for individual ships that have no relation to actual CO2 emissions in real life.


“At the moment we believe the IMO strategy can best be delivered with technical measures alone. We don’t think we need the smoke and mirrors of market based measures or the purchase of carbon offsets to compensate for emissions which the sector is quite capable of reducing itself in line with the targets now agreed by IMO,” he concluded.


ICS has produced a briefing note on possible zero CO2 marine fuels, which can be viewed at


Previous: IMO takes autonomous ships on board

Next: Resolving shipping's safety concerns over low sulfur standard

Jun-Jul 2024

Tanker Operator Athens report: managing crewing, training challenges, views on SIRE 2.0