Zero-Emission Technologies Might Replace The US Maritime Fleet

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  • These technologies are already available and adopting them would require minimal infrastructure updates.
  • The U.S. is calling for the ambitious goal of 100% zero-carbon global shipping by 2050. 
  • By acting early to decarbonize domestic shipping, the U.S. can create new jobs and help build domestic firms’ market share globally in both shipping and emerging zero-emission fuels, particularly hydrogen-based fuels.

For the first time, a new UMAS analysis titled “The Maritime Fleet of the United States—the Current Status and Potential for the Future,” commissioned by The Ocean Conservancy, demonstrates the extent of U.S. shipping fleet emissions and chances to decarbonize the industry as reported by UCL.

Global shipping emissions

In 2018, carbon emissions from all U.S.-flagged vessels amounted to around 26 million tonnes, approximately 2.4% of global shipping emissions.

The report estimates that 17% of the current U.S. fleet’s energy demands can be substituted with electrification.

This would mean, for example, ships relying on battery electrification for shorter voyages or ships running off onshore electric power sources when in the harbour.

The Gulf of Mexico and northwest coasts of the U.S. are primed to move towards electrification given existing routes.

These technologies are already available and adopting them would require minimal infrastructure updates and can happen within the existing renewal schedule and will not require needing to scrap and rebuild ships ahead of schedule.

Green corridors

“There is enormous potential for the U.S. to be a global leader in maritime decarbonization.

This is due to 3 main factors: energy and technology expertise, lots of coastal and inland shipping activity and geographically favourable conditions.

Our models show that this combination makes the U.S a prime candidate for developing domestic and international green corridors”, Dr Jean-Marc Bonello, Principal Consultant at UMAS.

“The U.S. is calling for the ambitious goal of 100% zero-carbon global shipping by 2050, and this report explores how we can lead the way through actions that decarbonize the U.S. domestic fleet,” says Delaine McCullough, policy manager for Ocean Conservancy’s Shipping Emissions program. 

Goods transported 

Existing US regulations under the Jones Act – which, among other things, requires goods transported between US ports to be carried on vessels flying the U.S. flag that is also built in the U.S. and owned and operated by US citizens – provide the United States with a unique opportunity to drive decarbonization of domestic shipping and the adoption of zero-emission fuels and electrification.

By already relying on US production, the domestic fleet can introduce new zero-carbon vessels as older vessels are decommissioned or retrofitted on already existing schedules.

By acting early to decarbonize domestic shipping, the U.S. can create new jobs and help build domestic firms’ market share globally in both shipping and emerging zero-emission fuels, particularly hydrogen-based fuels.

By transitioning the domestic fleet away from fossil fuels, the U.S. can become a global leader in shipping decarbonization and kickstart the international transition to zero emissions shipping.

Eliminating carbon emissions from the shipping industry is essential if the U.S. and countries around the world are serious about meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement as well as their own domestic climate goals.

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Source: UCL

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