MAN study: Fossil fuels use in shipping should be banned by 2030

The use of fossil fuels in the shipping industry will need to be banned in the latter half of the decade if the industry is to meet its decarbonization efforts, a study by MAN Energy Solutions shows.

Illustration; Image credit: MAN Energy Solutions

The study, carried out in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI), outlines four scenarios that explore how to reach the maritime industry’s climate targets by 2050.

In two of the scenarios, climate targets are met or even exceeded by 2050. The transformation is driven by technological change, creating a clear competitive advantage for the shipping industry and is acting as a driver for growth.

However, one of the key takeaways of the study shows that the industry, left to its own devices, is likely to fail to do so.

Specifically, the shipping industry could persist in a self-optimisation mode where the focus would then be on further maximizing efficiency with no real change taking place.

This would result in continuing business as usual with LNG use being the main alternative fuel oil along with diesel fuel, driven by low pricing, and ultimately, stagnating development of low-carbon fuels.

“The maritime industry currently has a goal, but not yet a way to get there,” said Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Energy Solutions.

“By 2050, the International Maritime Organization wants greenhouse-gas emissions to fall by 50%, however, these targets have not yet been backed up by concrete measures.”

The best way to avoid ending up in the endless loop of ship optimization is to enforce a regulatory framework supported by social consensus. As such, a complete ban on fossil fuels in the second half of the decade could significantly promote such a development, according to the study.

MAN Energy Solutions sees the study as a wake-up call.

“With shipping, everyone always talks about the technical side. Technically, however, the maritime energy transition has long been feasible. For years, the challenge has been at the political and an overall, societal level,” said Lauber, summing up the situation.

“Time is pressing – 2050 is just a single ship-generation away,” Lauber.

“Today, we can build engines that run on zero-emission fuels, but making the decision to ramp up synthetic fuels in the market is not something we can do alone.”

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The study named #AHOY2050 collects information from interviews the Fraunhofer Institute carried out with 40 experts from all areas of the maritime industry, but also from associations, science, and politics. Over 30 industry experts subsequently discussed the scenarios drafted on this basis in a workshop.

Key takeaways of the study:

  • Decarbonization needs global regulation (Strong political support for the development and use of low carbon fuels key)
  • Rapid action is required (Rapid action to make low-carbon alternatives the technologies of choice for most ships by at least 2035)
  • Decarbonization can be a driver for growth (Only green shipping can cover the growing demand for international logistics if decarbonization is a global priority)
  • Public opinion matters (Successful decarbonization depends on the majority of the world population buying into a sustainable lifestyle)
  • Decarbonization and digitization are autonomous trends (The shipping industry will undergo a process of digital transformation, including significant progress in autonomous shipping)

In Lauber’s view, a clear political course and global regulation are the key parameters for a successful maritime energy transition.

“If the world becomes entangled in selfish interests, we will not achieve a climate turnaround. In contrast, a smartly-set, global, regulatory framework can turn the decarbonisation of shipping into a growth engine for the industry. After all, if the global supply chain is consistently geared toward climate protection, ships are far superior to all other modes of transport.”