Clean Maritime Day at COP26

No-one can deny that the decarbonisation of global shipping is a daunting and complex mission. The modern world runs on a system made up of commonality in vessel design, standardised containers, set rules and procedures and infrastructure that is readily available the world over. Because of this, a modern vessel can sail from Shanghai to Durban, Rotterdam to Felixstowe and Salvador to Los Angeles with high confidence that the fuels, spare parts and skills needed to service the vessel will be available at each port of call, further still that all the equipment will be present and ready to offload whatever cargo it is carrying. This connected, global system, supported by increasing connectivity through communications technology, is the often-unseen backbone of modern society; safely, efficiently, and reliably moving people, goods and components all over the world.

But the strengths of this worldwide system present significant challenges in transitioning to new, cleaner fuels. A fuel available for a vessel in Rotterdam must likewise be available in Durban and Shanghai, with all the associated infrastructure and skills to deliver it safely and efficiently. Further still, ships designed to run on new fuels are not built overnight, and the average lifetime of vessels (around 25 years) means that ships entering the water designed to run on the heavy fuel oil of today will be sailing for decades to come.

So how do we even start to change a whole system, made up of millions of moving parts that the world relies on?

Connected Places Catapult joined several of maritime events at COP26 seeking to answer this question. Throughout COP26 the City of Glasgow College, in partnership with Maritime UK, has been hosting the International Maritime Hub, bringing together innovators from across the globe working on maritime decarbonisation challenges. The City of Glasgow College has long been a hub of maritime activity in the country, with over 3,000 maritime student passing through its doors each year and producing around half of all the UK’s merchant navy officers.

On Wednesday, the Department for Transport, Knowledge Transfer Network and Maritime UK hosted a session bringing together representatives from many of the projects in the recent Clean Maritime Demonstrator Competition, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. Connected Places is pleased to be working with industry and academic partners in four of these successful projects, based at ports across the UK including Portsmouth International Port, PD Ports, Aberdeen Harbour and the Port of Tyne.

Announced in March 2020, and part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of green shipbuilding and maritime technology, the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) is a £20m investment from government alongside a further £10m from industry to reduce emissions from the maritime sector. The programme is supporting 55 projects across the UK, including projects in Scotland, Northern Ireland and from the South West to the North East of England. As set out in the Clean Maritime Plan (2019), Government funding has been used to support early-stage research relating to clean maritime. The programme will be used to support the research, design and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions for maritime and to accelerate decarbonisation in the sector.

Robert Courts MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Maritime opened the session, speaking on the importance of making our transition to net zero an economic opportunity for the UK and our regions, remarking on the geographic spread of CMDC projects representing the length and breadth of the UK. Following this, David Tozer, Head of Maritime and Land Transport at Innovate UK shared more on the scale of the competition and the high levels of engagement from industry.

Five projects were showcased at the event, including clean charging infrastructure in Plymouth, hydrogen fuelled autonomous survey vessels in development by Acua Marine, clean energy offshore service vessels through Bibby Marine, feasibility of electric port operations in Belfast and our own project with GE, Teesside University and PD Ports in a Vertically Integrated Cloud Based Port utilising data insights to improve energy performance.

The session was closed by the Department for International trade, with John Hutchison, Head of Maritime talking on the support available to SMEs and innovators in reaching new markets and opening up new commercial opportunities for UK businesses.

The day also included a Hydrogen Reception hosted by Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), a Belgian shipping company, showcasing  an impressive range of innovation to drive forward the adoption and scaling of hydrogen fuelled technologies. This included hydrogen powered heavy goods vehicles, floating hydrogen refuelling stations, multi-modal hydrogen refuelling hubs, hydrogen survey vessels and much more. All working together within a connected hydrogen ecosystem, with many concepts already successfully trialled and more in planning.

On Thursday, the ‘Day of Transport’, the International Maritime Hub hosted a Voyage to Net Zero Event, with candid and thought provoking presentations from BAE Systems, Varuna Marine Services and Lloyd’s Register, with a special introduction from Paul Little, founding Principal and CEO of The City of Glasgow College.

As was our own experience at COP26, Paul commented on the perception that truly earnest discussions were now taking place at the highest leadership levels across stakeholders in shipping, with excellent progress being made. Finishing with a quote from John F Kennedy, Paul left the attendees with the call to action that “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try”.

Insightful and candid presentations were shared by Anne Madsen of BAE Systems and Sanjeev Wewerinke-Singh of Varuna Marine Services, approaching circular economy challenges from the perspective of ship builder and recycler respectively. The need to not only reduce emissions in service but also in build and decommissioning were highlighted, in that the industry needs to take greater consideration of embedded energy and CO2 in making informed and more transparent procurement decisions. As well, the importance of modular, upgradeable designs instead of designing for replacement at the end of life. Fundamentally, stronger relationships and understanding are needed throughout the value chain, where today we “build to put together easily, we don’t build to take apart easily”.

Charles Haskell of Lloyd’s Register spoke on our historical lessons, of the transition from sail to coal and coal to oil, drawing parallels but also distinctions to our current challenges. Where previous transitions provided both safety and economic incentive, this is not true in either case with future marine fuels such as ammonia or hydrogen. Charles also spoke of the need in taking a wider systems approach to decarbonisation, considering resources, production, integration, bunkering, storage and handling and new propulsion systems, as well as new skills, ways of working and regulatory aspects.

Whilst these challenges may seem vast in their complexity, much progress has been made in recent years and throughout COP26. The announcement of the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors on Thursday signals an important development in international cooperation and collaboration. The Declaration set out to establish at least 6 green shipping corridors by 2025, facilitating international partnerships to ensure the infrastructure, frameworks, incentives and other instruments are in place to enable the end-to-end green shipping chain. With the first likely corridor to be between Australia and Japan, this will soon expand to include possibly Singapore and mainland Europe. Green Shipping Corridors present a pragmatic and useful answer to the perennial ‘chicken and egg’ problem of large scale transition to future fuels, enabling elements of the ecosystem to be developed, trialled, refined and scaled.

Connected Places Catapult is pleased to see not only the progress at COP26, but also the work already ongoing in the UK with the Government support to accelerate our transition to a greener maritime and ports sector. We look forward to sharing more on our own work, together with our partners across industry and academia over the coming months. To find out more about our Clean Maritime activities, simply click here.

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