The announcement that all new vessels for UK waters ordered from 2025 be designed with zero-emission capable technologies on board is linked to January’s launch of the Government’s Clean Air Strategy. There is a double-benefit; these initiatives both support the fight to combat climate change and improve air quality, respectively. Ultimately, the plans will result in the enhanced protection of public health in the UK.

Now that Government is enacting the commitment to be net zero on greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050, this really is high priority. Emissions from shipping could reach 17% of global GHG emissions by 2050 if left unchecked, meaning there is no time to waste.

The Plan signposts the need for action across the maritime sector to support delivery of the net zero target and prepare for climate change. The scale of action required is huge but what might make it happen is the immense business opportunity. The global market for alternative fuel technologies is anticipated to be £8-11bn by 2050, meaning the UK could add £510m to its economy annually.

Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani, stated:  

“The Clean Maritime Plan sets an ambitious vision for the sector and opens up exciting opportunities for innovation. It will help make the UK a global hub for new green technologies in the maritime sector.”

The Plan also includes a £1m competition to seek innovative approaches to reducing emissions from maritime sources. It is published alongside a ‘call for evidence’ to reduce emissions on UK waterways and domestic vessels. Coastal shipping plays a vital role in reducing land-based traffic. The next steps may include scaling-up the advances made in utilising hybrid engines in the small ferry sector and shoreside electrification at military ports. Port and harbour authorities, cargo terminals and smaller wharves will need to be involved in this all the way to enable the transition of goods from vessel into the hinterland.

The timing is good. With last year’s IMO 2050 target to cut GHG emissions by 50% (against 2008 levels) and rising rhetoric from many stakeholders about the impacts of supply chains and booming passenger numbers on the seas, we support the momentum the Plan provides. It supports disruptive technologies that will help embed emission reduction across the transport sectors. It also encourages businesses to disclose the financial risks they face from climate change.

The connections to the banking sector have received new vigour in the last two weeks. The Government’s Green Finance Strategy and private banks’ Poseidon Principles will facilitate investments into low-carbon shipping and technology. A new green finance initiative for the sector will be launched during London International Week in September.

There is a real opportunity for the maritime sector to catch-up with the changes we are seeing in other industries. With the public and business leaders on board, the Plan will catalyse a new wave of pilot studies, collaborations on technology provision and improved transparency in emissions' reporting. In step with this, ports and cargo terminals will play a critical role as they prepare to be future ready for those cross-sector changes. This can only be good news for the businesses involved in trading, moving and transporting cargo, those living in port-cities and the general public who are the end users of goods.

 This blog was written by Charles Haine, UK Environment Lead for Maritime Sector at WSP.


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