The IMO decision of April
2018, calling the international shipping industry to decarbonise and at least
halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, was an important milestone and was
largely welcomed by the global engine builders’ community.
thru cross-sector cooperation with focus on R&D, shipping to reach IMO 2050
Although some parties
found that the IMO target could have been even more ambitious, it clearly
marked a paradigm shift: improvements in existing technologies will not be
enough. Only through cross-sector cooperation and an increased focus on R&D
in carbon-neutral technologies (such as batteries, fuel cells, or synthetic
fuels) will shipping stand a chance of reaching the IMO 2050 target.
2050 – The day after tomorrow
2050 may sound distant,
but for the shipping community it is not. Between now and 2023, the IMO will
work out the legislative steps that will pave the way for the shipping industry
to achieve its goal and enable the industry to invest in new, low-carbon or
zero-carbon power and propulsion systems. If these challenges are met, it will
most probably be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 per
cent by 2050.
is not an option
If new technologies can be developed and
brought onto the market in time, there is a good chance that market mechanisms
will enable the fulfilment of the IMO targets. In any case, failure is not an
option: not only for the sake of shipping’s reputation but, looking at the big
picture, for the good of future generations.
No ‘silver bullet’ in immediate sight
Whatever the future may
hold, there is no immediate "silver bullet" to meet the challenge of
the IMO targets. There are some promising technical solutions, such as
battery-driven ships or fuel cells, but as of today, these are unable to cover
the propulsion of—for instance—sea-going container vessels. One always needs to
keep the end-user in mind.
Moreover, current changes
such as the switch to LNG are necessary and helpful, but should only be considered
as bridging technologies...
Other ideas may include
innovative ship design (more efficient hulls, system integration and
optimisation) as well as broader digitalisation (including optimisation of port
calls and the supply chain at large). These all call for an even wider scope of
parties to be involved.
R&D activities with well-defined aims
Consequently, there is a
need for a consensus on finely focused R&D activities with well-defined
aims that avoid dilution of effort by pursuing several directions at once and
so wasting valuable resources. Support from regulatory bodies is key here and
this means research funding; but first and foremost a clear and stable global
legal framework is needed, which does not predetermine any specific technical
direction. Only a rule-making that is seen to be technologically-neutral has a
chance of attracting the necessary investments worldwide.
Some low-hanging fruit is
there for the taking
To support the development
of technical solutions in the medium- and long-term, an efficient cross-sector
R&D framework must be defined and supported without delay. Moreover, there
is also a need for other short-term measures. These need to focus on efficiency
improvements and take account of existing and close to market-ready technical
solutions, such as LNG retrofits or system optimisation.
There may be some
unintended consequences to seemingly quick fixes such as a direct call to speed
reductions; they do not incentivise technical progress and the switch to new
technologies. Such short-term measures must be part of a larger toolbox. They
must be specifically focused on the least efficient ships, and part of a range
of solutions that shipowners may choose from. Moreover, some thought should be
given to the fact that power limitation may be a much more efficient way to
address this issue. Indeed, de-rating the engine offers the possibility of
lowering the vessel’s maximum speed and, thereby, optimising the actual load
point with the design load point. Such a measure, based on a power limitation
on the vessel, would inherently provide a speed advantage for the best
performer / best design.
The necessary developments
require cooperation between all stakeholders, namely, shipowners, shipbuilders,
engine manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, system integrators and the
Classification Societies, emphasises a release by CIMAC (International Council
on Combustion Engines).