Window on Washington: Green Wave – Transport

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Green shipping and decarbonization of industry have been around for a long time. When Democrats took control of both houses of Congress and the White House earlier this year, it was no surprise that concerns about global warming and climate change began to sprout all around the Ring Road. Early executive actions, Congressional hearings and legislative proposals have all taken on a green tint, and the shipping industry has not escaped attention. With extremely limited container capacity, supply chains stretched to breaking point, and record industry profits, policymakers in Washington are exploring new rules and new ways to enforce the old rules. to decarbonize maritime transport.

House lawmakers turn to carbon-free shipping industry

Earlier this year, the subcommittee of the House of Commons Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Coast Guard and Shipping held a hearing on a “carbon-free marine industry”.1 At the start of the hearing, the chairman of the plenary committee on transport and infrastructure, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) indicated that he had tasked each sub-committee to examine ways to reduce carbon emissions. in its jurisdiction, and said shipping accounts for 3% of global carbon emissions today, dropping to 10% without significant changes. Subcommittee Chairman Salud Carbajal (D-CA) noted the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050, and expressed hope that the American industry would be able to innovate and lead the way in new energy technologies, creating jobs at home and completely eliminating carbon emissions from ships.

Witnesses at the hearing presented contrasting points of view. A witness from the nonprofit research group International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) said that to achieve the IMO’s target of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from By 2050 compared to 2008 levels, it will require net zero emission ocean going vessels on the water. no later than 2030. The witness estimated that the technologies to achieve this would include battery-powered electric vessels for operations near ports and short sea lanes, cryogenic or hydrogen fuel cells and ammonia. as a hydrogen carrier. He also suggested that wind propulsion and air lubrication of the hull could be deployed to help the competitiveness of carbon-free fuels. However, the ICCT witness cautioned against reliance on liquefied natural gas (LNG) due to the methane released during the production of LNG upstream and from the engine itself downstream, which can make LNG worse for the climate than conventional fuels taking into account full life cycle emissions. He also cautioned against reliance on biofuels due to limited supply, the need to generate them from limited waste and problems with deforestation.

The ICCT witness suggested that the US government take action to encourage the development and deployment of zero emission ships and fuels as well as supporting port and electrification infrastructure, using the Jones Act fleet. as a protected market launch platform for new technologies. He also suggested that the development of these technologies in the United States would position American companies to compete for the global ocean-going vessel bunkering market, unlike conventional fueling centers often located in overseas ports. such as Singapore. Finally, he advised the Committee that the United States should work with key trading partners, including China, Mexico, the European Union (EU) and Canada, to establish zero-emission ship corridors and infrastructure. associated, in addition to the cabotage exchanges of zero-emission vessels. proposal.

In a similar tone, a witness from US naval architecture firm Glosten called for significant new federal investments led by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Maritime Administration (MARAD). Also focusing on the Jones Act National Fleet, the witness suggested that DOE and MARAD together develop a strategic plan and timeline for achieving low GHG emission vessel technologies. First, he proposed significant new DOE funding for port infrastructure for electrical refueling of ships and alternative fuel refueling. Second, he offered MARAD to lead and fund collaborative technology development consortia between government, universities, ship operators and ship developers such as Glosten, which recently received a Federal Transit Administration grant for design an all-electric passenger ferry in cooperation with MARAD. .

The World Shipping Council (WSC), which represents the major container carriers in the international liner service, also testified before the subcommittee. The WSC has offered a marked path towards decarbonization through proposals pending before the IMO. Specifically, the industry has proposed to establish an International Maritime Research and Development Council (IMRB) and an International Maritime Research Fund (IMRF) under IMO oversight to develop and fund the research needed to create the technology necessary for ships to use low and zero levels. carbonaceous fuels. The industry put forward the IMRF / IMRB proposal in December 2019, expanded and detailed in 2021, and it is expected to be considered by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in the fall of 2021.

While it is possible to meet the IMO’s GHG 2030 target of increasing overall fleet efficiency by 40% through operational and design changes to the current fleet based on fossil fuels, WSC asserted that achieving the IMO’s 2050 target of an absolute 50% reduction in emissions will require fuels and associated propulsion systems, fuel storage and fuel infrastructure do not yet exist . None of the candidate fuels currently available today can propel large ships on transoceanic routes, the WSC said. Even the most optimistic forecasts admit that battery solutions do not perform at these ranges. Hydrogen, ammonia and other fuels have been identified as potential substitutes for fossil fuels, but present safety, storage, handling and production challenges that must be overcome before they are available in the market. the practice. Overcoming these challenges, or finding other alternative technologies not yet designed, will require a centralized and well-funded research effort.

To meet the 2050 target on time, the WSC said immediate action must be taken to set standards for new construction today with a useful life ranging from 20 to 25 years. In addition, the industry is keen to ensure that the playing field is a level playing field for all with shared low carbon fuel technology, shared international standards, and shared research and development costs allocated through a mandatory license fee. each tonne of GHG emissions from ships, which is expected to generate approximately $ 500 million per year over a 10-year period, or $ 5 to $ 6 billion in industry funding. The WSC indicated that national or regional initiatives are likely to result in slower development, quilting methods and quilting rules which may further delay the development of necessary technologies and make compliance more difficult. For example, the WSC noted that in the absence of rapid progress from the IMO, the EU began to unilaterally seek to expand its own Emissions Trading System (ETS). to the global shipping industry by imposing extraterritorial GHG rules on the last trip to the EU. and last legal voyage outside the EU for all ships calling at EU ports. While some observers have suggested the EU move was aimed at boosting IMO’s progress, the threat is real and is another reason to move quickly to a global standard.

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Footnotes

1. Carbon-free maritime industry: hearing before the sub-comm. on the Coast Guard and the Transp. of the House Transport Committee, 117th Cong. (2021).

Originally published by Benoît’s Maritime Bulletin for the fourth quarter of 2021

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