A race against time: the maritime industry and the climate objective

Once again, SMM will be held in person from September 6-9, 2022. Scheduled around four months before the first global show, the international press conference was the perfect opportunity for a high-quality panel of experts to come together and to discuss the sector’s most pressing topics, with a focus on how to make maritime transport climate neutral by 2050. There are plenty of options, and even nuclear energy is not excluded.

Bernd Aufderheide struck an unusually serious tone when addressing international journalists at the start of the SMM press conference. “The coronavirus pandemic is not behind us yet and the war in Ukraine is another blow to the global economy and therefore to the international shipping industry, supply chains and ports,” the president explained. and CEO of Hamburg Messe and Congress. He said the war made it all the more important to eliminate European dependence on Russian energy – and say goodbye to fossil fuels. In addition to the pandemic and the war, there is also global warming, which remains an existential problem facing humanity.

A problem that even the shipping industry has to deal with. How do you make it climate neutral as soon as possible? This is also the central theme of this year’s SMM, with the leitmotif “Leading the maritime transition”. To preview the big industry event in September, Aufderheide invited five opinionated guests to the SMM studio, with the public able to join digitally.

Collaboration as the key to success
The shipping industry has set itself the goal of zero emissions for 2050. A race against time. Which alternative fuel should shipowners focus on? Options include ammonia, methanol, hydrogen and syngas. One thing is clear: now is the time to invest if you want to achieve climate neutrality on schedule. Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO Maritime at DNV, recommended flexibility: “Why should we belong to any ‘camp’ when it comes to fuel?” asked Ørbeck-Nilssen. “We’re probably heading into a fuel multiverse, and we need as much experimentation with different fuels as possible with as many players doing the experimentation as possible. And we can’t wait for the perfect fuel solution to present itself. We need to start the transition now – we have the technology available today to achieve significant carbon savings. We must embrace the spirit of collaboration to address common challenges such as safety, fuel availability and cost – we only win by working together.

Shipping faces an uphill battle
Is openness to multiple fuels the key to maritime energy transition? Renowned maritime economist Professor Dr Martin Stopford is skeptical. “Shipping is not an ideal candidate for green fuels,” Stopford said, noting that all alternatives are less efficient than fuel oil and yet more expensive. He doubts that the abilities are enough. “It is unlikely that the industry will be able to get its hands on so much green fuel over the next decade. In 2020, only 13% of electricity was produced from non-carbon fuels.

He predicted more potential for “modernization packages,” which are complete solutions that dramatically increase vessel efficiency. “Sustainably renovating the world’s fleet of 100,000 ships – that’s a huge task!” said Stopford. In some businesses, the economics of nuclear are beginning to be taken seriously, given the cost and limitations of conventional green fuels.

The high-quality panel of experts focused on the question of how to make shipping climate neutral by 2050.

Winners and losers
Whichever fuel wins, shipbuilders and suppliers have the expertise to deliver the right drive technology. René Berkvens, president of the industry association SEA Europe and former CEO of the Damen Group, called on the whole of the European maritime industry to show more commitment and to use fuel-efficient technologies and alternative fuels during the construction of new vessels and the modernization of existing vessels.

In the industry, it is said that shipowners – more than anyone else – tend to be conservative when it comes to buying. Nikolaus H. Schües, president designate of BIMCO and CEO of the shipping company F. Laeisz, disagrees: “We are not being too careful, we are acting sensibly. Given the current technical uncertainty, it makes sense to be selective when it comes to investments. However, Schües stressed: “We want to make the industry greener, because we are convinced that this is the right path.” However, many shipping companies currently lack the financial leeway to do so: “At the moment it is mainly the large container shipping companies that benefit.” Some owners are still suffering from the consequences of the crisis that has been going on for years. “But no matter how much the transition costs, it will cost society more not to go down this path,” Schües said.

There are also winners and losers among shipbuilders: “Order books around the world are full – but that is mainly due to Asian shipyards, which build container ships and LNG carriers,” Berkvens said. Shipyards and highly specialized equipment manufacturers in Europe are now betting on the return of the cruise market, the business of renewable energies in the offshore and the willingness of shipowners to invest in new technologies.

Back to basics
Cristina Aleixendri, COO of bound4blue, has her finger on the pulse. “The industry is too focused on green fuels. But there are other sustainable propulsion solutions. Wind as an energy source is freely available – why not take advantage of it? said Aleixendri. With the automated suction sails of his Spanish start-up, ships could already save 30-40% fuel today. For its sustainable commitment, bound4blue is funded by the European Innovation Council. Shipowner Schües in particular is enthusiastic about this approach: “There is nothing more natural than creating a forward movement with the wind. His dream: to transport green ammonia with sail propulsion. For the shipping company, it would be a return to basics: F. Laeisz made a name for himself more than 100 years ago with the Flying P liners. Wind power could thus become an important component of the energy transition on board. The example shows it: there are many solutions on the table to fight against Mission Zero emissions. “We are ready to invest in technologies. And SMM is exactly the right place to tackle complex issues,” Schües said.

Even if they did not find themselves on the same wavelength for each issue, the panelists agreed on one point: a leading global trade show like SMM is essential in the race against time and climate change. HMC host and CEO Bernd Aufderheide agrees wholeheartedly: “Nothing can replace personal contact between industry and other stakeholders. And an intensive exchange of ideas on stands at trade shows and conferences is the only thing that will bring us closer to our goal of decarbonization in the shipping industry.
Source: SMM