The global maritime transport industry has submitted a proposal to the UN IMO to form the world’s first collaborative shipping R&D program to help eliminate CO2 emissions from international shipping. The proposal includes core funding from shipping companies across the world of about US$5 billion over a 10-year period.
International maritime transport carries around 90% of global trade and is currently responsible for approximately 2% of the world’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It is shipping’s global regulator, the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), which has responsibility for regulating the reduction of CO2 emissions by international shipping.
The industry-wide move to accelerate R&D is necessary to ensure the ambitious CO2 reduction targets agreed to by IMO Member States in 2018 are met.
The IMO targets include an absolute cut in the sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions of at least 50% by 2050, regardless of trade growth, with full decarbonization shortly after. The 2050 target will require a carbon efficiency improvement of up to 90%, which is incompatible with a continued long-term use of fossil fuels by commercial shipping.
Meeting the IMO GHG reduction goals will require the deployment of new zero-carbon technologies and propulsion systems, such as green hydrogen and ammonia, fuel cells, batteries and synthetic fuels produced from renewable energy sources. These do not yet exist in a form or scale that can be applied to large commercial ships, especially those engaged in transoceanic voyages and which are currently dependent on fossil fuels.
The shipping industry is thus proposing the establishment of an International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB), a non-governmental R&D organisation that would be overseen by IMO Member States.
The objective of the IMRB would be to accelerate the research, development and deployment of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels, energy sources, propulsion systems and other new GHG reduction technologies that will be necessary to achieve the levels of ambition for 2050 and beyond set by the IMO Strategy. The IMRB would perform the necessary management responsibilities involved with directing an international research and development program of this scale.
The IMRB will be financed by shipping companies worldwide via a mandatory R&D contribution of US$2 per tonne of marine fuel purchased for consumption by shipping companies worldwide—which will generate about US$5 billion in core funding over a 10-year period.
Illustration of how the contribution system would work.
Although the R&D program and its funding is an initiative of the leading international shipowners’ associations, additional stakeholders’ participation is welcomed. A global fund can be established quickly, and the shipping industry is confident that other stakeholders will also want to contribute, potentially generating substantial additional funding for R&D.
In the proposal to the UN IMO, the industry set out details for governance and funding of the coordinated R&D program, which can be put in place by 2023 via amendments to the existing IMO Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
The shipping industry’s proposal will be discussed by governments in London at the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in March 2020.
The international shipowner associations making this proposal, which collectively represent all sectors and trades and over 90% of the world merchant fleet, are:
- Cruise Lines International Association
- International Chamber Of Shipping
- International Parcel Tankers Association
- World Shipping Council