IMO Chief: Shipping Industry Advances Emission Reduction Targets


  • Mr. Arsenio Dominguez, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), stated that the global shipping industry is on course to finalize its plans by next year to reduce greenhouse emissions.
  • The IMO is confident that the industry will achieve its net-zero emissions target by 2050, with interim targets set for 2030 and 2040.

Mr. Arsenio Dominguez, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), said he is “very confident” that the shipping industry is on track to finalise, by next year, how it will reach goals to reduce greenhouse emissions. “Everything is moving in accordance with the timetable, and then we will make the decisions in 2025,” Mr. Dominguez told reporters in an interview on April 19 to wrap up the Singapore Maritime Week.

Aim for Net-Zero Emissions

The global shipping industry is aiming to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and has set emissions targets for 2030 and 2040. These targets are up from those set out in 2018, which called for a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions and had no absolute emission reduction targets for the years before 2050.

Revised Strategy

The IMO had announced its revised strategy to cut greenhouse gases in 2023. The measures that will be taken in the intermediate term are due to be approved in 2025 and come into force in 2027. Net-zero emissions mean the overall balance of greenhouse emissions produced is equal to the amount of such emissions being taken out of the atmosphere.

Consultations and Analysis

Mr. Dominguez, who became IMO’s secretary-general on Jan 1, 2024, said the agency is working with external consultants to analyse the impact of different scenarios for the industry to achieve its target. Discussions are ongoing with stakeholders to understand their concerns. The IMO is also developing the technical and financial framework to enable the industry to achieve the targets.

Global Standard-Setting Authority

As an agency under the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. It has 176 member states, including Singapore, which joined in 1966.

Transition to Cleaner Marine Fuels

Cleaner marine fuels like methanol are seen as a way for the industry to cut emissions. Using such fuels requires different engine technologies and infrastructure, and operators must also know how to handle the fuels safely. According to DNV, which keeps a database of vessels by fuel types, more methanol-powered ships have been ordered in recent years. There were 138 orders in 2023, up from 35 in the previous year. These include vessels that are retrofitted to run on the fuel. In January 2024, Ocean Network Express, a Singapore-based shipping company, ordered 12 methanol dual-fuel ships. These are scheduled to be delivered in 2027.

Singapore’s Initiatives

To gear up for the transition, Singapore is setting up a maritime energy training facility that will be completed by 2026 to equip maritime workers with the skills to handle cleaner marine fuels. The facility is expected to train around 10,000 seafarers and maritime personnel from now until the 2030s. Singapore’s port terminals aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 – a target set out in the Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint which the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) launched in 2022. The emissions from domestic harbour craft will also be reduced in stages through the use of low-carbon energy solutions such as blended biofuel, liquefied natural gas, diesel-electric hybrid, and full-electric propulsion.

Lessons for Other Countries

Mr. Dominguez said Singapore’s efforts to decarbonise the maritime industry, which include initiatives such as the testing of alternative fuels and training seafarers on how to handle them safely, can provide lessons for other countries.

Navigating Geopolitical Difficulties

Asked about how the IMO navigates the difficulties that arise from geopolitics – like attacks on ships in the Red Sea – Mr. Dominguez said his main concern is for the safety of seafarers and the safe navigation of ships to maintain global trade flows. But these geopolitical situations do not distract the agency from working towards its decarbonisation goals.

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Source: The Straits Times