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24 Jan 2024
5 mins
Decarbonisation – Collaborate We Must

Taking urgent action to combat climate change, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the 2023 Revised GHG Strategy at MEPC 80 in July 2023, which called for, among others, the following levels of ambition:

  • Carbon intensity of the ship to decline through further improvement of the energy efficiency for new ships
  • Carbon intensity of international shipping to decline
  • Uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources to increase, i.e. represent at least 5% (striving for 10%) of the energy used by 2030
  • GHG emissions from international shipping to reach net zero by or around, i.e. close to 2050. Indicative checkpoints: to reduce GHG emissions by at least 20% (striving for 30%) by 2030, compared to 2008; and by at least 70% (striving for 80%) by 2040, compared to 2008
Lau Wei Jie (close up)

Speaking to SeaVoices, Mr Lau Wei Jie, Director of Partnerships, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD), emphasised that collaboration is critical for realising IMO’s 2030 and 2050 targets.

From the outset, the launch of GCMD in 2021 is, in itself, a collaborative effort. Founded by six industry partners namely BHP, BW Group, Eastern Pacific Shipping, Foundation Det Norske Veritas, Ocean Network Express and Seatrium (formerly Sembcorp Marine), GCMD also receives funding from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) for qualifying research and development programmes and projects. The decarbonisation centre aims to help the maritime industry eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by shaping standards, deploying solutions, financing projects, and fostering collaboration across sectors.

One such GCMD initiative is ammonia as a marine fuel, and GCMD is working to address industry concerns with ammonia’s toxicity despite its potential as a zero-emissions green fuel.

“Our intent is to help decarbonise the maritime sector through pilots and trials and to accelerate the adoption of decarbonisation solutions in a practical manner,” Mr Lau explained. In addition to his partnerships portfolio, he has led the commissioning of an ammonia bunkering pilot safety study and is co-leading the efforts to design the ammonia transfer pilots.

To understand the challenges with regards to ammonia bunkering, engagements with stakeholders to understand pain points, rigorous assessments on technological and commercial readiness levels was conducted. DNV was subsequently commissioned to undertake the study and was supported by Surbana Jurong and the Singapore Maritime Academy at the Singapore Polytechnic. A group of 22 Study Partners and an Industry Consultation and Alignment Panel of about 130 members, who contributed their expertise and experience to the study. Numerous regulatory agencies were also consulted to help refine the analysis.

Undertaking the study required close collaborations with our project partners across the ammonia value chain and consultants in order to handle sensitive information, such as detailed drawings of the vessel design, costings of ammonia production, etc. This ensures that the findings can help identify gaps to be addressed by various parties within the ecosystem to enable ammonia bunkering.

Mr Lau highlighted, “We convene conversations and partnerships around the utilisation of ammonia as a marine fuel. We listen closely to stakeholders across the maritime value chain so we can help to address operational and safety constraints. What are people worried about? Can a ship-to-ship ammonia transfer pilot take place in the Port of Singapore to help address technical and operational considerations and assuage concerns before the first ammonia bunkering can take place?

We use the term ‘risk awareness’ instead of ‘risk aversion’, in order to shift the discussion from ‘this fuel is dangerous; therefore, I am not going to touch it’ to ‘how do I handle this fuel safely’”.

“The articulation and actualisation of mitigation measures and proper training can provide added confidence to seafarers and operators. As safety is a top priority, the unions’ role in helping to amplify knowledge in handling new marine fuels becomes important,” he added.

Ms Siti Noraini Zaini, Regional Manager, Asia, International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA), also reiterated to SeaVoices that collaboration is key to addressing the roadblocks, such as costs and gaps in technical knowhow, on the path to zero-carbon shipping.

“Through collaboration (with specific responsibilities and outcome benefits), different Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can be brought together in projects to move these efforts forward in the form of like-minded partnerships.

Collaboration will also bring about knowledge sharing, achieve the required technological innovation to meet the revised IMO GHG emissions targets, at an acceptable cost. We should avoid duplication and/or overlapping of efforts. With some confidence, the industry can move forward and reduce uncertainties where possible,” Ms Siti said.

As an industry association, IBIA has identified training as one of their key priorities.

“As we move towards a multi-fuel future, it is important for us to collaborate with organisations and experts in their respective fields to develop training courses which would not only address the industry needs in ensuring that our future manpower is competently trained, but also, how we can train our existing manpower resources to future-proof themselves; to adapt and transition to the changes especially on the decarbonisation pathway,” she commented.

One such example is the IBIA-Green Marine cooperation agreement which aims to ensure that existing and future manpower onboard the bunker tanker side and bunker surveyors are competent and ready for methanol bunkering on a larger scale. The plan is to commence training in Singapore in 2024 before extending the training globally. We are pleased that the Methanol Institute has also endorsed this training collaboration.

“We will continue to explore collaboration with other like-minded organisations on this front.”

In addition to ongoing efforts, Singapore plays an important role in catalysing the greening of international shipping.

Affirming Singapore’s strong commitment to Maritime Decarbonisation, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), in consultation with industry partners, launched in March 2022 the Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint: Working Towards 2050.

“While Singapore contributes only 0.11% of global emissions and is alternative energy-disadvantaged, we have and will continue to do our part,” the Blueprint underscores.

The message is loud and clear. Decarbonisation is a shared responsibility. The only way to successfully transit to a green future is for stakeholders to join forces, boost cooperation, and work together.