It’s time for the rise of Global South in maritime decarbonization

So far, maritime decarbonization has been focused almost solely on the Global North rather than the Global South. In order to enable a just and equitable energy transition, policymakers and other maritime stakeholders would need to ensure that countries in the Global South are not omitted. This could be achieved with the help of green shipping corridors.

Maritime decarbonization is believed to be critical to decarbonizing the global economy as a whole, including both the Global North and South. However, the progress of maritime decarbonization is clearly uneven.

Advanced economies would need to deepen their engagement with developing countries to overcome a new “North/South divide” on the pace and priorities of energy transition, last year’s report by the International Energy Forum in collaboration with S&P Global Commodity Insights said.

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As defined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Global South broadly comprises Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia (excluding Israel, Japan, and South Korea), and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand).

The full decarbonization until 2050 has attracted much attention, however only a few attempts were made to include the Global South in the potential and actual projects gathering maritime community. One of the promising attempts is a joint US-Danish project to resource and execute pre-feasibility studies for green corridors in five countries in the Global South.

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The “Global South Green Corridors” project aims to support sustainable green growth and job creation in developing countries by identifying and supporting the development of green corridor projects. The project is expected to conduct pre-feasibility studies in Namibia, Panama, Fiji, and two more countries to be announced soon.

In July 2023, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed on a 2023 greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy signaling early industry commitment to phasing out GHG emissions from international shipping as well as promoting a just and equitable transition. As the IMO delegates meet this week in London for the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 81st session, to discuss the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy, the focus will be, among other things, on stimulating the adoption of scalable zero-emission fuels and ramping up the use of such fuels to achieve the medium- and long-term GHG emission targets.

Here, the green corridors come into play as they can simplify zero-emission challenges, help the industry achieve the IMO GHG emission targets and result in numerous other benefits such as unlocking economic development of less developed countries.

The Global South and the potential of green corridors

Green corridors are shipping routes on which there are commercially operating ships using alternative fuels. These maritime routes have the potential to accelerate the green transition in a country or region.

What is more, they can support infrastructure development and green transition in developing countries.

Furthermore, green shipping corridors are recognized by the signatories of the Clydebank Declaration as a key accelerator of early transition.

Currently, there are 44 announced green shipping corridor projects around the world, according to Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping’s and Global Maritime Forum’s data. Each of these corridors is in a different stage of development, with the more developed being those that completed their respective feasibility studies.

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One of the successful ongoing green corridor projects includes the Chilean Green Corridors Network Project. The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping cooperates with the Chilean Government on establishing a network of green corridors allowing for green maritime transportation of goods in and out of Chile. The aim of the project is to establish green corridors between ports where vessels can access, and bunker low-carbon fuels.

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Against this background, the Global South has been rezognized as a promising market for green fuels. By implementing the concept of green shipping corridors, countries in the Global South could be supplying much-needed green fuels to the developed countries of the Global North.

Places on the map of the Global South have the opportunity to become new bunkering hubs. This was stressed in the webinar “Leveraging Maritime Green Corridors in Your Climate Strategy” organized by Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping on March 20.

The center has been creating methodologies to cover any potential green corridor in the world, from the pre-feasibility phase to feasibility. According to the center, green corridors can be used not only to demonstrate technical and regulatory feasibility but also to better understand the socio-economic opportunities and risks for people, communities and countries.

For countries, they leverage wider transition aims including improved access to clean energy, economic diversification, knowledge and technology transfer and capacity building. They also ensure decent, sustainable jobs and workforce up-skilling.

Speakers of the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping’s webinar concluded that investments in the countries of the Global South (e.g. South Africa) are necessary to stimulate production and further develop the region.

Such investments could change the global prospects of (green) bunkering.

“We need to use green corridors to move the world in a better position,” it was concluded in the webinar.