Zero-Emission Solution for Shipping at the Sustainable Energy Week


  • EU Sustainable Energy Week 2019 saw an effort to bring together different key players in the shipping sector to present their work and developments which pave the way for zero emission shipping.
  • The speakers presented and discussed under two panels – short sea shipping and how to decarbonise sea shipping.

Bellona summarizes the key points from the Sustainable Energy Week under the categories, short sea shipping and decarbonizing sea shipping, in their website.

Can Shipping be zero-emission?

Bellona decided to contribute to this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week 2019 with the event “Sailing towards Paris: Can Shipping be zero-emission?”, in an effort to bring together different key players in the shipping sector to present their work and developments which pave the way for zero emission shipping.

Shipping, along with aviation, is probably the most difficult sector in transport to fully decarbonise. The shipping sector is gaining only very little attention in European climate policy.

Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive

One directive including some points on sustainable shipping is the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, which states that “Member States shall ensure that the need for shore-side electricity supply for inland waterway vessels (…) and inland ports is assessed in their national policy frameworks.”[ii], which doesn’t set any binding target.

Apart from that, NAIADES II, an EU-led project, aims to facilitate a modal shift in transport from road to sea, for many reasons, including environmental ones.

EU shipping sector

Regulations on how the EU shipping sector must cut down its emissions in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement are yet to be formulated.

It seems like policy makers and industry are justifying inaction by claiming that research has yet to decide on the ideal decarbonisation solution for shipping.

While the EU remains stagnant on sustainable shipping policies, stakeholders, ports and some of the EU’s neighbours are already a few steps ahead of us.

Sustainable Energy Week 2019

This was the reason for Bellona to contribute to this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week 2019 with the event “Sailing towards Paris: Can Shipping be zero-emission?”, in an effort to bring together different key players in the shipping sector to present their work and developments which pave the way for zero emission shipping.

Since the shipping industry comes in many different shapes and sizes, the solutions for one segment do not necessarily apply to the other.

Norwegian transition to sustainable shipping

Christina Ianssen, Transportation Advisor at Bellona, explained about the battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell short sea ferries and the necessary infrastructure that is key for the Norwegian transition to sustainable shipping.

Lanssen said that “short sea shipping is a maintenance free highway”, emphasising the fact that using ships and waterways to carry goods and people is a more efficient use of money and energy.

Another point Lanssen made was that from the Norwegian experience, battery electric ships are so energy efficient that they have a lower carbon footprint than conventional ships after only a few weeks of deployment, despite a higher carbon footprint upon production.

Besides, solutions for shipping are not only limited to that sector. Quite the contrary, says Ianssen, there are synergies between using hydrogen for ferries and trucks.

Having year-long experience in electrifying the shipping sector in Norway, it is important to bring some of the work done in Oslo regarding technologies and necessary policies for zero-emission shipping to the EU.

Needless to say, the transition to zero emission shipping requires a number of changes, including developing the infrastructure needed for electric- or hydrogen- fueled ships.

Important role of Port of Antwerp

Pieter Vandermeeren, Technical Manager Environment at the Port of Antwerp. Vandermeeren showed the important role of Port of Antwerp in the energy transition through providing the necessary infrastructure for low and zero-emission shipping, paving the way for the port to become an energy hub.

The port is currently working on transforming into a multi fuel port that integrates fuels like hydrogen, electric power, LNG and methanol in its bunker market by 2050.”

LNG in the future

Francisco de la Flor from GIE/GasNaturally, an EU-based gas lobby, presented LNG as to the “most environmentally-friendly, readily available fuel for shipping today and in the foreseeable future”.

However, that is a highly questionable statement, given the fact that LNG only reduces greenhouse gas emission by roughly 21%, at best, depending on upstream emissions and methane leakage.

Besides, there are solutions which can actually bring short sea shipping to zero-emission.

Here, LNG would only be an unnecessary distraction that would only delay the decarbonisation short sea shipping.

At this stage, slowing down the reduction of emissions can’t be afforded any longer. Where solutions are available, they should be applied.

Carbon free shipping

Jostein Bogen, Vice President and Global Product Manager Energy Storage & Fuel Cells at ABB Marine, demonstrated the pathway to carbon free shipping by stating that “15% of all ships being built are electric propulsion ships”, which will most definitely increase in the near future.

Bogen is confident that hydrogen will play a big role in decarbonising deep-sea shipping, saying that there are already many projects planned regarding hydrogen for large ships.

Seventh largest GHG emitter

If shipping was a nation, it would be the 7th largest emitter of GHGs,” was the opening statement of Faig Abbasov, Shipping Manager at Transport and Environment.

T&E’s key recommendations for zero-emission shipping is to invest in shore-side electricity, making it mandatory under the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure (AFID) and to exempt electricity consumed for this purpose from taxes.

Along with targeted investment in zero-emission fuel supply infrastructure in ports, this will provide the needed infrastructure for zero-emission ships to replace conventional ships.

At the same time, air emission standards in ports need to be tightened. As for LNG, its mandate needs to be discontinued under the AFID as investing in LNG infrastructure will either lead to stranded assets or continued combustion of fossil fuels.

Abbasov concluded by reminding the audience that the IMO goal is not 50% emission reduction by 2050, but an emission reduction of at least 50% and aiming for full decarbonisation by the middle of the century.

Emission reduction by 40%

Tom Strang, Senior Vice President of Carnival, said that the international cruise ship company is aiming to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2030, relative to 2008.

Currently, Carnival plans to do so by investing in LNG powered cruise ships and in shore power, which will save energy while at port.

Given the difficulty to decarbonise deep-sea shipping such as Carnival’s fleet, Strang argued that the only option for cruise companies right now is to reduce emissions by replacing their conventional fleets with LNG ships.

Ten out of the 21 new ships Carnival recently ordered are LNG powered, which raises the question why Carnival is choosing the lower-emission alternative for less than half of its new fleet, given ships have long lifetimes and high usage rates.

Additionally, for deep-sea shipping to be fully decarbonised, big shipping companies need to invest more in hydrogen and ammonia research, so that they become a reliable alternative as soon as possible.

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  1. I read a lot of articles, statements discussing carbon neutral shipping and sustainability but without mentioning the significant, vital contribution that wind-assist and primary wind propulsion technologies will play in these pathways. Many alternative low carbon fuels require a huge ramp up in renewable energy production, this is not the case with a primary renewable energy that is delivered directly to the vessel, free at the point of use and requiring no infrastructure to support it. When you have reductions of fuel use in the 5-20% range as retrofits and substantially more for primary, optimised new build vessels, this is technology that can’t be ignored.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting sir. We try to bring as much as insightful articles as possible. We also showcase wind propulsion technology-related articles. Please check our video section for the same


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