ICS: Shipping needs massive R&D investments to reach net-zero target

A report by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the environmental consulting company Ricardo has pointed out that massive scaling up of finance for research and development (R&D) is essential to achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2050 in the shipping industry.

A Zero Emission Blueprint for Shipping, launched ahead of COP26 and meetings at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), outlines the necessary steps to completely transform shipping’s current dominant propulsion technology and fuels landscape in less than three decades.

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In order to reach the ‘4th propulsion revolution’ in shipping, the report highlights the need for a major scaling up of finance for technology and development as the latest figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) on private-sector R&D in maritime reveals R&D spending has fallen from $2.7 billion in 2017 to $1.6 billion in 2019.

Furthermore, the report provides a blueprint for governments and industry to target their investment in innovation.

Ricardo identified a list of more than 260 example R&D projects needed to overcome key technical and systemic challenges and accelerate the transition to zero-carbon emissions in shipping. An estimated cost of $4.4 billion would be needed to fund these projects, the report shows.

Said to be ‘high priority’, 20 example projects in hydrogen, ammonia and battery power have been presented in greater detail as a potential blueprint for R&D projects to be commissioned in the future. Many of the projects identified will take between one to six years to reach commercialisation.

In 2019, shipping associations across the maritime sector submitted a proposal to the IMO for the establishment of a $5 billion worth IMO GHG reduction R&D program aimed at accelerating the introduction of zero-emission technologies into the shipping industry.

Guy Platten, secretary general at ICS, said: “Shipping has put forward a submission to its UN body for the approval of a $5 billion R&D fund, created solely from contributions by industry. This report makes clear just how essential this fund is to equitably advance alternative technologies and fuels needed at the required pace and scale to decarbonise the global shipping industry”.

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Governments will be voting on whether to approve the fund at an upcoming event at the IMO, after COP26.

“There is clearly a large number of projects that are needed to deliver zero-emission ships at scale, and beyond current pilot projects in the pipeline. Significant and long-term, high-risk investments will be required to trigger the step-change to advance technology readiness levels and deliver pilot these technologies”, added Colin McNaught, director for Strategic Growth & Development at Ricardo.