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DNV has warned that shipping will have to ‘consider all alternative approaches to reducing emissions’ in the face of tough competition from other transport sectors and industries for the supply of carbon-neutral fuels.

During an online press conference to present the latest edition of its Maritime Forecast to 2050 yesterday (6 September), DNV noted– and applauded – the stricter targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at the 80th meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) in July, which call on the shipping industry to achieve a 20% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by or around 2050.

However, the classification society said shipping’s chances of meeting the 2030 emission goals (which, strictly speaking, are ‘indicative checkpoints’ rather than targets) ‘hang in the balance’ if the industry does not take a flexible approach and focus on energy efficiencies as well as new fuels.

‘To meet the anticipated demand of 17 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) annually by 2030,’ calculated DNV, ‘the maritime sector needs to access a staggering 30-40% of the projected worldwide carbon-neutral fuel supply. Shipowners must therefore focus beyond fuels, in particular on what can be done now to achieve energy efficiencies and carbon emission reductions.’

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO DNV Maritime, who gave his now-customary preface in yesterday’s online launch for the Forecast, said: ‘The 2020s marks the decisive decade for shipping. Securing greener fuel supply is critical. However, focusing on fuels alone can distract us from making an impact this decade and ambitious future declarations are not good enough. What we need is tangible actions that will reduce emissions. Energy efficiency measures can deliver decarbonisation results now and towards 2030.’

Following on from Ørbeck-Nilssen, Eirik Ovrum, Principal Consultant in DNV Maritime, and Lead Author of the Maritime Forecast, gave an overview of some of the most promising energy efficiency measures, including air lubrication systems and wind-assisted propulsion. The DNV Forecast noted that the latter has already proved its worth – having been installed on 28 large vessels and ‘delivering fuel savings of between 5-9%’ with the potential for much more.

Ovrum added that technologies such as nuclear propulsion and onboard carbon capture can also help to reduce shipping’s need to compete with other sectors for the scare supplies of alternative fuels. Nuclear propulsion is already an established option in the naval sector, Ovrum said, with an installed base of about 160 vessels and the DNV report has presented a case study for a 15,000 TEU vessels.

But while energy efficiency measures will play their part, there is still a need for shipping to get onboard with the new fuels.

The DNV Forecast said that progress is being made, as 6.5% of ship tonnage currently on the water can now operate on alternative fuels, compared to 5.5% last year. However, that means 93.5% of the global fleet (by tonnage) is still running on conventional fuels – so there is some way to go.

As Ørbeck-Nilssen put it in yesterday’s briefing: ‘The fuel technology transition is definitely underway, but no real fuel transition [as yet].’

A glance at the order books does give grounds for optimism, however, as the Forecast reported that ‘half the ordered tonnage [will be] capable of using LNG, LPG or methanol in dual-fuel engines, compared to one third of the tonnage on order last year’.

The DNV Forecast added that the uptake of methanol and LPG is ‘starting to show in the statistics’ together with the first hydrogen-fuelled newbuilds and ‘a growing pipeline of ammonia-fuelled ships soon to hit the order book’.

Concluding his presentation, Ovrum advise shipowners to: reduce their energy consumption now; consider all decarbonisation options; focus on fuel flexibility and consider their long-term fuel strategy. In his summary, Ørbeck-Nilssen echoed these messages, but also flagged up the importance of a ‘price on carbon’ to ‘fuel the transition’ and the need for a significant ‘upskilling’ to help seafarers handle the new fuels and technologies.

The Q+A session emphasised the importance of keeping an open mind on all the various options, with a lot of interest in the prospects for nuclear propulsion. Responding to a question from Bunkerspot, Ovrum said that the growing use of the new greener fuels will not negate the importance of building up cold ironing facilities in ports – as using shore power will still be more energy efficient than using a ship’s own engines when in port, even if the vessel is running on an alternative fuel.

As the briefing drew to a close, Ørbeck-Nilssen was asked to continue his tradition of picking a song that captured the mood of the Forecast. Without missing a beat, the DNV man nominated the almost-40-year-old Van Halen classic Jump which – amidst the many, many Jumps! – includes the key line: ‘You've got to roll with the punches and get to what’s real’.

Click here to download the latest edition of DNV's Maritime Forecast to 2050.

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