Britain’s maritime industry should look to the automotive and aviation sectors for inspiration on how to accelerate its transition towards lower carbon fuels.
Both of these sectors have forged ahead with plans for decarbonisation, and provide a good model for the once in a lifetime transition that maritime faces in the coming 25 years to move it towards zero emissions and net zero.
Innovation in the automotive field is well supported by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), and developments in aviation are championed by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI). Both organisations are doing good work to encourage the greater take-up of more sustainable fuels, identify opportunities to create new jobs and improve economic performance in their areas, and have great communication with national government.
To my mind, our maritime sector would benefit enormously in its switch to lower carbon technologies by having a similar overarching body able to discuss government strategy and policy and support for innovation.
Right now we could be missing opportunities for UK innovators and businesses in securing parts of emerging markets in clean propulsion, and risk falling behind our European neighbours such as the Netherlands.
Recently, the UK became eligible to bid into the Horizon programme which includes considerable support for maritime innovation via the ‘Zero Emission Waterborne Transport’ partnership. It is time for UK businesses and innovators to warm up existing links – and create new ones – with EU partners for upcoming Horizon calls.
Producing and using green energy must remain important areas of focus for the UK as we transition away from fossil fuels; such as supporting the growth of offshore wind energy via clean propulsion support vessels, and with clean fishing and ferry vessels. The new ‘green corridor’ between the Netherlands and the UK should help drive new avenues for clean propulsion in short sea shipping. Under the new International Maritime Organization’s guidelines, UK vessels – and all other European countries’ vessels – should achieve 40% decarbonisation by 2030.
It’s critical to remember that maritime underpins much of the UK economy; but also that green electricity supplied to your home cannot be truly green if the vessels supporting wind turbines out at sea are powered using diesel engines.
Leadership within maritime is vital to help coordinate the demand for clean propulsion and innovation and supply chain growth to satisfy it. A newly created Maritime Strategic Advisory Group in Connected Places Catapult could help to provide some of that leadership, which is essential because we have thousands of small operators working in our sector who need to come together; unlike in automotive or aerospace which have far fewer – but much larger – corporations who often work more easily with each other to realise common ambitions.