Green corridor surge: initiatives soar to 44, doubling from last year’s count

The number of green corridor initiatives around the world went from 21 to 44 over the past year, according to the findings of the 2023 Annual Progress Report on Green Shipping Corridors released by the Global Maritime Forum.

Illustration; Credit: Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping

The report finds that there is a ‘substantial maturation’ among existing corridors, with multiple corridors clearing a progress stage, deciding on their priority fuels, and setting targets for operation. Beyond the numbers, ample evidence points to green corridors triggering pre-investment activity.

“It is, of course, encouraging to see the emergence of so many new green corridor initiatives and the increased maturity of existing green corridors, but the other side of this maturation has been the unearthing of a new set of challenges as the corridors move closer to implementation,” says Jesse Fahnestock, the Global Maritime Forum’s project director for decarbonization.

The doubling of announced green corridor initiatives over the past year was driven by increased governmental efforts to establish green corridors and continued industry and port efforts. Shipping companies, ports and the third sector represent over half of the 171 stakeholders involved in green corridors. Direct engagement from 18 governments, with 19 initiatives featuring either public or public-private leadership, primarily led by the United Kingdom and the United States, highlights the growing awareness of green corridors’ potential to unlock wider decarbonization within the global maritime trade.

Progress made

Fifteen corridors have now set operational targets – specifying when the corridor should be “online” with operational zero-emission vessels and infrastructure – virtually all of which were announced this year. They have shared a focus on action this decade, targeting initial operation between 2024 and 2030.

Out of these, 23 initiatives have been identified as being in the initiation stage, which underlies the formation of a core stakeholder group, linked by a common interest in exploring a green corridor in a given geography. Some 21 initiatives have completed this stage, the report said.

A total of 17 initiatives are in the planning stage, where the stakeholders are co-developing an implementation plan for the chosen corridor, including a fuel focus, common implementation targets, and the shared actions needed to achieve them on the route.

Feasibility assessments – examining the technological, regulatory, and commercial requirements to establish the corridor – are used to support the process. Four projects have completed this stage, the report said.

Finally, there are around two initiatives that have reached the execution stage, the duration of which is set at around 2-3 years.

The execution stage marks the beginning of tangible action to realize the corridor. In this stage, the various technical, regulatory, and commercial steps to enable the operation of zero-emission ships on the corridor are taken. The phase ends once business case approvals are obtained, contracts and offtakes are signed, and the required permits are in place.

While no initiatives have fully entered this stage, several have begun elements of execution in parallel with planning – for example, by initiating new pilots, technical studies, regulatory, or commercial actions.

This is likely to streamline the timeline for operation, which will include time for development and accommodate the one-to-three-year lead times for the construction of vessels, bunkering infrastructure, and fuel production.

In the operation phase, the first zero-emission vessels hit the water, supported by the relevant infrastructure, standards, and contracts. From there, deployment is expected to scale.

As a part of this process, bespoke arrangements such as joint ventures, demand pools, and targeted policy support may be phased out in favor of more conventional arm’s length commercial arrangements and standardized regulatory regimes.

The container segment is the most prominent in the green corridor space, with limited but increasing activity in the bulk segment, and very little activity in the cruise and tanker segments. Methanol and ammonia have solidified their position as the most popular fuel choices.

Credit: The Global Maritime Forum

The South Pacific and South Atlantic regions witnessed an increase in activity, with new initiatives emerging in both South America and Africa. The numbers remain low, however. Asia has significantly increased its representation, with several transpacific initiatives announced this year, while the number of shortsea corridors in Europe doubled.

Credit: The Global Maritime Forum

The report indicates that there are early indications that corridors are helping drive investment and action:

  • NYK Bulk & Project Carriers (NBP), Oshima, and Sumitomo have announced a collaboration to design Handymax bulk carriers, part of fleet of up to 15 ammonia-powered vessels “dedicated to the transport of copper products that NBP would operate from Chile to the Far East.” This is connected to one of the corridors under the ongoing Chilean Green Corridors Network project
    and follows a collaboration agreement between Codelco, a Chilean state-owned copper producer, and NBP to decarbonize maritime transport of copper products.

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  • Multiple actions are being undertaken in connection with the exploration of the Western Australia-East Asia iron ore corridor. For example, Yara Clean Ammonia and the Pilbara Ports Authority have completed a study on the feasibility of clean ammonia bunkering in the Pilbara.
  • DFDS is working on the design and approvals for an ammonia-powered rollon/roll-off (ro-ro) vessel, intended for operation on the Gothenburg-North Sea Port green corridor.
  • CMA has acquired freight and passenger company La Méridionale with an ambition of using its lines to create green corridors in the Mediterranean Sea.

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There is also evidence of progress in establishing zero-emission fuels supply chains in areas relevant to corridors. For example:

  • Ground has been broken at the Port of Gothenburg on 50 kilotonnes of e-methanol production, which will be online from 2025.
  • The Singaporean Energy Market Authority is seeking proposals to develop 0.1 megatonnes of ammonia for bunkering purposes by 2027.
  • The World Bank is completing a feasibility study on the potential for green ammonia production in the Saldanha Bay region of South Africa, which is under exploration for an iron ore green shipping corridor within the Getting to Zero Coalition.

Many corridor ports are working to increase their readiness for zero-emission bunkering. For example, Singapore, Rotterdam, and Gothenburg have all completed ship-to-ship methanol bunkering trials, while Singapore, the Pilbara, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Houston, and Korean ports are undertaking safety and feasibility assessments for ammonia bunkering. In addition, some ports have begun harmonising bunkering standards through corridors.

The report also demonstrates how, as corridors move closer to implementation, new problems emerge and pre-existing issues resurface in new ways. The complexity of governing corridors as cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder initiatives continues to slow down progress within multiple categories. On the commercial front, the report reveals gaps in understanding of which business and financing arrangements can enable deployment, while it finds that on the policy front, the need for implementation support requires an increase in government resources and capacity.

The Global Maritime Forum said that 2024 will prove pivotal for green corridors. Along with the marked advancements, the report also identifies several emerging challenges that will need to be overcome as green shipping corridors move closer to implementation, including the need to make key fuel decisions and secure both commercial arrangements and governmental support.