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ICS: Zero CO2 emissions from shipping achievable this century

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Dry Bulk,

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is representing the world’s national shipowners’ associations and over 80% of the world merchant fleet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn from 6 – 17 November.

ICS will highlight how the shipping industry is supporting the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop an ambitious CO2 reduction strategy.

Simon Bennett, ICS Director of Policy explained ICS has a vision of zero CO2 emissions from shipping in the second half of the century. He said: “We are confident this will be achievable with alternative fuels and new propulsion technologies”.

ICS said its vision might be delivered with batteries or fuel cells using renewable energy, other new technologies such as hydrogen, or even something not yet anticipated.


In the meantime, the shipping industry has proposed that IMO member states should adopt a suitably ambitious goal for reducing total emissions from the entire international shipping sector by an agreed percentage by 2050.


According to ICS, a large number of IMO member states have already come forward with detailed proposals. Several EU and Pacific island nations have jointly proposed that the sector should reduce total CO2 by as much as 70% by 2050.

“Japan has set out in detail to IMO how a 50% total cut by 2060 might be achieved. In view of projections for future trade growth, an objective in this range, while still incredibly ambitious, therefore seems more realistic,” Bennett remarked.

“It will be for governments to agree the actual reduction number when they adopt an initial IMO strategy next April. And this is also going to have to address the legitimate concerns of major economies such as China and India about the implications for future trade and their sustainable development,” Bennett continued.

Whatever is decided, ICS says that the entire world fleet is probably unlikely to enjoy global access to new alternative fuels for at least another 20 or 30 years.  Moreover, population growth and further improvements to global living standards will probably determine that demand for shipping must continue to increase, as it is already by far the most carbon efficient form of commercial transport.


According to ICS, by using a combination of technical and operational measures, the international shipping sector already appears to have reduced and held its total annual CO2 emissions at about 8% below its 2008 peak. This is despite an increase of about 30% in maritime trade, estimated in tonnes of cargo transported one nautical mile (tonne-miles) over the period up to the end of 2015, ICS further noted.

The latest estimates will have to be verified by the next official IMO Greenhouse Study in 2019 using the new IMO CO2 Data Collection System.

ICS cautions that these latest estimates by third parties will have to be verified by the next official IMO Greenhouse Study in 2019 using the new IMO CO2 Data Collection System. 


“They are nevertheless encouraging especially given the dramatic reduction in fuel prices since 2014. Moreover, a significant increase in marine fuel costs is expected in 2020 due to the mandatory global switch by the entire world fleet to low sulfur fuels. This should greatly incentivise, to the extent this is possible, the further reduction of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by ships,” concluded Bennett.

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