Helping the maritime industry in its low carbon transition
28 June 2016
As the industry that physically delivers around 90 per cent of the products we use in our lives, shipping is a key driver of the world's economic engine.
In fact, seaborne trade has grown more than three-fold during the past four decades as it moves finished goods from cars to consumer electronics, and raw materials, from tin to timber, around the world.
It's estimated that shipping currently contributes around 3% of global CO2 emissions, with the total CO2 emitted expected to grow by 50-250% under current policy as other sectors de-carbonise, with that in mind, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) turned to the UCL Energy Institute
The Energy Institute delivers world-leading learning, research and policy support on the challenges of climate change and energy security. One key area of research is the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of the world's shipping fleet.
Over the last five years, the institute has undertaken a variety of applied research and consultancy contracts from a number of stakeholders in the maritime industry. All of these have been associated in some way to the energy efficiency and emissions from international shipping.
Heading this research is Dr Tristan Smith, Reader in Energy & Transport at the UCL Energy Institute. He is interested in low carbon shipping, especially in the development and implementation of technologies and practices to reduce maritime CO2 emissions.
The IMO Greenhouse Gas Study 2014
Tristan Smith and his team at the institute played a leading role in a consortium of 10 organisations to produce the third IMO Greenhouse Gas Study in 2014. This was a major publication for the International Maritime Organisation, the UN-designated agency for regulating international shipping. It was also of great interest to the maritime industry more widely as it will be used as a reference for CO2 emission regulatory discussions for the next five years.
Shipping is still on the wrong bearing
More recently, a new report by researchers from the Shipping in Changing Climates Consortium at UCL and the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester, outlined how cutting the shipping industry's CO2 emissions in line with global climate change targets will need an approach that goes beyond current regulations.
This new research, which was presented to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO, illustrated the wide gap between what is needed to avoid 1.5/2°C of global warming, compared with the current forecasts of shipping CO2.
This was the first time that the scale of the challenge had been presented directly at the IMO and articulated in terms of trajectories for individual ship types. The paper coincides with the submission to the IMO of a paper by the Republic of Marshall Islands calling for the MEPC to agree a quantifiable and ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for international shipping.
Tristan commented, 'Many have been trying for years to make progress at IMO on this incredibly difficult topic. It's not lack of progress, but the difference between the path we're on and the path that we need to be on that is a remaining issue. Having an agreed goal of how shipping will need to change over the next 35 years is a small but important part of the discussions that are needed. However the discussions resolve, the planning for change cannot start soon enough - if it's going to have a minimum of disruption on international shipping and global trade.'
In demand beyond the IMO
Besides the IMO, the expertise of the UCL shipping group has been in demand elsewhere. It has recently undertaken work for Russian Green Shipping Programme on behalf of the The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). At the EBRD, the team worked with an expert consortium to undertake a technology assessment and market review of the Russian Fleet. One of the primary goals of the Russian Green Shipping Programme is to create an environment that would stimulate investment in projects to reduce bunker fuel use, to bring about savings of more than 150,000 tonnes of CO2.
Other recent projects have included work for the Royal Belgian Ship-owners Association, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), Shell, the International Consortium on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Paint. Dr Smith and his team also work closely with non-governmental and environmental groups ranging from B9 Shipping to Richard Branson's Carbon War Room, on various innovative finance and technology projects.
University Maritime Advisory Services launched
Two years ago, Tristan, in collaboration with Dr Simon Davies, Director of MATRANS LTD, launched University Maritime Advisory Services (UMAS) to handle the growing volume of maritime consultancy work. This resource is the largest university-based consultancy on greenhouse gas emissions and energy matters related to shipping.
This new commercial advisory service draws upon the world leading research of the UCL shipping group combined with the advisory and management systems expertise of MATRANS Ltd to offer clients a range of services, from modelling to strategic advice, sustainability development and sustainability reporting.
Dr Davies commented, 'All aspects of the international shipping sector are, and will continue to be, presented with significant challenges in the areas of emissions control and energy efficiency. UMAS has been created to provide the sector as a whole with highly focused, professional advisory services aimed at assisting shipping and maritime companies and organisations meet these challenges, to reduce risk and to optimise the strategic opportunities these challenges bring.'
Shipping expertise results in prestigious award
In recognising the impressive work of Dr Smith and his team, he was awarded the UCL Consultants Award at the UCL Awards for Enterprise in June 2015.
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