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Seas of green – ports lead zero-emissions connections

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Green shipping corridors now criss-cross the globe and, while experience in overcoming the challenges of these multi-stakeholders is growing, an acceleration in development pace is needed.

It can be difficult to keep up with the ever-increasing number of green shipping corridor schemes. The Global Maritime Forum (GMF) annual progress report on green corridors counted 44 initiatives on publication in December 2023. A recent DNV report counted 57 as of February 2024, and announcements have continued since.

The UK Government announced funding in early April 2024 for feasibility studies into green corridors connecting the island nation with the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and Ireland. On the same day, X-Press feeders signed a Memorandum of Understanding with six major European ports to connect them all with corridors using green methanol-powered container ships.

As the number continues to grow, what impact have green corridors had on maritime emissions? Is it going to plan?

There are wide variations in almost every detail of green corridors, from who is in control, the fuels to be used, stakeholders involved, and their timelines. The unifying ambition is to foster decarbonisation in the maritime industry through the establishment of zero-emission routes between ports. The initial target set by the Clydebank Declaration for green shipping corridors at COP26 was to have six corridors in operation by the middle of the decade, and many more by 2030.

The latest GMF report tallied 15 corridors that had set operation targets between 2024 and 2030, and six corridors with aims for a scaled deployment before 2030.

Target 2030

On the surface, a long period of time seems to have passed with little tangible impact on emissions seen, despite the continued announcements of new green corridors. But to point to a lack of concrete emissions reductions from green shipping corridors is to misunderstand the concept.

The year 2030 serves as an important target for many green corridor initiatives and will be the first major unified checkpoint for the initiatives’ combined achievements in the industry’s move towards decarbonisation. The abundance of objectives slated for 2030 reflects the need to spur adoption of green fuels by the end of this decade for those new technologies to develop and propagate to reach net zero 2050 ambitions.

At the IMO, the revised GHG strategy set three targets for 2030: a reduction of the carbon intensity of shipping by at least 40%; the use of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies for at least 5% of the energy used by international shipping, striving for 10%; and a reduction in the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping by at least 20%, striving for 30%, compared to 2008 levels.

GMF has stressed the importance to green corridors of the IMO 2030 target of 5% alternative fuel adoption, striving for 10%, noting that the role of green corridors should be to focus on helping the industry to reach the 2030 ‘tipping point’ by enabling transition to green technologies through 2030, rather than cutting emissions today.

Behind the scenes

Reporting from the transparency-focused Silk Alliance cluster of green corridors shows the behind-the-scenes work necessary to enable low carbon port connections as well as the outside dependencies for future progress.

The Silk Alliance plans to develop a green corridor cluster initially built around a few medium-sized container ships refuelled in Singapore and serving routes in Asia, with calls reaching to the Middle East and Africa. The network will then expand over time with the addition of more ships, ports, and even bunkering destinations.

The Silk Alliance’s roadmap as of November 2023 showed the first deployment of low-carbon methanol vessels in 2026, and the various developments across fuel supply, port, and fleet to reach that milestone. Fuel supply, costs and forecasts need to be understood and a carbon- intensity target agreed across the corridor. Port authorities need to agree bunker, storage costs and size projections, and set harmonised bunker standards along the port chain. On the vessel side, the call sequence needs to be set, cost projections made for newbuild and retrofit ships, and orders placed for vessels.

These steps form the infrastructure piece of the equation, and are enabled by policy, safety, and finance developments. Bridging options for funding gaps – the price difference between low-emissions operation and more carbon-intense industry normal operations such as HFO-powered ships – need to be understood, incentive mechanisms for clean shipping put in place, and public- private partnership templates developed.

A key initiative for the Asia – Europe trades, Rotterdam and Singapore initiated their Green and Digital Corridor in 2022, bringing together some 20 stakeholders. The partners have adopted a ‘building-block’ approach to decarbonising the continent-spanning corridor, identifying zero and near-zero fuel pathways, and then building an enabling ecosystem for deployment. The steps are similar to those for the Silk Alliance – developing and harmonising bunkering standards for methanol and ammonia, undertaking joint pilots and demonstration projects, and looking at support options for near-zero emissions vessels, such as reduced port dues.

International regulations on decarbonising shipping also need to be agreed - an achievement with significant implications for the development of green corridors and the technologies that will enable them.


MEPC 83

As with other maritime decarbonisation initiatives, the details of the IMO’s mid-term measures will heavily impact the direction and confidence of green corridor projects. The revised GHG strategy set out clear ambitious targets for international shipping, but the detailed regulation is yet to be finalised.

Under the revised strategy’s timeline, the mid-term measures – which will likely comprise a goal-based marine fuel standard and economic mechanism to incentivise low-carbon shipping – will need to be agreed at MEPC 83 in spring 2025 to be ready for entry into force in 2027.

The details of the final regulations will affect the commercial viability of individual fuels, and confidence levels for those investing in the technologies, vessels, and infrastructure green corridors will be built on.


The steps listed by the Silk Alliance are just those necessary to reach the pilot deployment of low-carbon methanol vessels slated for 2026. The steps beyond that milestone are just as complex and significant; methanol supply will be increased and near zero-carbon methanol supply established alongside preparations for the introduction of ammonia-fuelled vessels, including the development of necessary safety and regulatory considerations.

This snapshot of the tasks and dependencies involved in establishing one set of green corridors gives an insight into the preparatory work required for each green corridor, and the wider industry developments on which they rely.

 

Seatrade MaritimeGlobal Ports Report 2024 Seas of green – ports lead zero-emissions connections

Stakeholder management

The scale of the administrative task is also notable. Stakeholders in the Silk Alliance include port regulators, port and terminal operators, financial institutions, bunker and logistics suppliers, academic partners, shipowners, shipyards, energy providers and their associations, all facilitated by Lloyd’s Register’s Maritime Decarbonisation Hub.

 

 

GMF said there were 171 stakeholders involved across the 44 green corridors in its report, including eight of the 10 largest container lines, three of the five largest cruise lines, and four of the 10 largest bulk shipping companies.

Gathering momentum

Less than three years on from the signing of the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors, industry experience in devising and implementing green corridors has grown. With key organisations involved in multiple green corridors enabling direct knowledge sharing, and organisations like GMF sharing insights and best practices, the internal organisational challenges of aligning stakeholders towards a shared objective are eased through experience.

Most green shipping corridors remain in various stages of feasibility study and assessment, narrowing down the available options for carbon cutting on their target shipping routes, with a minority progressing through to implementation planning. According to GMF, four projects were transition from implementation planning to execution.

X-Press Feeders’ announcement of two green methanol- powered container ship routes due to launch in Q3 2024 shows the potential for rapid deployment of smaller-scale green corridors as partners identify opportunities where fuel availability permits.

GMF said that 2024 must prove a breakthrough year for green corridors to serve their function, highlighting a need for acceleration within the corridors.

 

There's plenty more trending topics discussed on our Global Ports Report 2024.

 

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