Bunker suppliers must prepare for the ‘death of fossil fuels in shipping’ says ICS

Simon Bennett, ICS Director of Policy Simon Bennett, ICS Director of Policy

Marine fuel suppliers should anticipate that there may no longer be significant demand for fossil fuels from shipping within as little as 25 years, if not sooner, and that the sector is now on an inevitable trajectory towards a future of zero CO2 emissions.

This was the message that the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) delivered to the Platts' Mediterranean marine bunker fuel conference in Athens at the close of November 2017.

ICS is representing the world's national shipowner associations at the UN IMO negotiations on CO2 reduction.

“Addressing an audience of bunker fuel suppliers about the imminent transition to zero carbon fuels is perhaps like Henry Ford addressing suppliers to horses and carts.” said ICS Director of Policy, Simon Bennett.

“Henry Ford remarked that if, in say 1890, you had asked someone in the street what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.”

He added: “Governments need to recognise that many ships will remain dependent on fossil fuels probably at least until around 2050, just as some people in developed nations were still using horses in 1920. But the momentum created by the Paris Agreement on climate change means that the wholesale switch to alternative fuels and propulsion systems will be relentless and inevitable.”

ICS says that the most challenging area in the ongoing IMO negotiations is agreement on the levels of ambition for CO2 reduction, by the sector as a whole, before zero CO2 fuels become widely available.

This is the process of managing the transition to alternative fuels, which has to be set against projections for increased demand for maritime transport (over which the industry has no control) due to massive global population growth, plus increasing prosperity and economic development which international shipping directly facilitates.

The shipping industry, including ICS, has therefore proposed that IMO Member States should agree that the initial goal should be to hold the entire sector's total CO2 emissions below 2008 levels.

“This is actually very ambitious' said Mr Bennett, as the CO2 emissions from the rest of the world economy are predicted by the UN to continue increasing until the 2030s.

By Jake Frith

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