Shapps calls for zero-emission shipping by 2050

16 September 2021

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps has called for an absolute zero target for international shipping emissions by 2050.

The industry is currently accountable for 3% of global emissions and the target, requiring agreement through the International Maritime Organization, would be a “significant increase of ambition for the sector”.

Shapps made the call during London International Shipping Week where he also announced an ambition to have zero-emission vessels in commercial service by 2025.

To that end a hydrogen-powered submarine was named among the winners of a £23m government-funded R&D competition. The vessel, with a pilot route between Glasgow and Belfast, is understood to be able to carry the equivalent of a single shipping container.

The initiatives follow on from commitments outlined in the government’s Transport decarbonisation plan to explore the establishment of a UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions within the Department for Transport.

Shapps said he was excited by the prospect of zero-emission commercial vessels in UK waters in the next few years and green Channel crossings within a decade.

“Taking action now allows us to lead the charge on this global shift, creating highly skilled jobs for British workers and shaping the landscape for what clean shipping and trade will look like for future generations,” he said.

However, the UK’s drive for zero-emission ships in UK waters will fail without clean-fuel bunkering infrastructure in place, such as for hydrogen, according to energy company Unitrove Group.

CEO Steven Lua said: “Without zero-emission fuelling infrastructure, the drive for zero-emission ships will falter.”

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