ICS readies for life without fossil fuels

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the top global shipowning lobby group, has admitted the industry will need to wean itself off fossil fuels in the coming decade to meet ambitious decarbonisation goals set for 2050.

The ICS board met last week to hammer out priorities with fuel choices topping the agenda.

“The 2020 global sulphur cap will be the regulatory game changer of the decade with profound implications for the economics of shipping” said ICS chairman, Esben Poulsson. “But there are even more profound changes to come. We are rapidly moving into a multi-fuel future to be followed we hope, in the 2030s, by the arrival of commercially viable zero CO2 fuels suitable for global application.”

With regard to achieving the greenhouse gas reduction targets agreed by IMO last year, including a 40% efficiency improvement by 2030 and a 50% total cut in the sector’s GHG emissions by 2050, the ICS board endorsed the finalisation of proposals to IMO on short term measures. These include tightening of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships – which already requires ships built in 2025 to be 30% more efficient than those delivered before 2013 – as well as proposals for a ‘Super SEEMP’ whereby existing Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans could be subject to mandatory external audits, probably as part of the ISM Code.

Looking long term, Poulsson said: “The ICS board agreed that the industry cannot achieve the 2050 GHG reduction target using fossil fuels. Over the next decade we are therefore going to require massive investment in research and development of zero CO2 emitting propulsion systems and other technologies which don’t yet exist in a form that can be readily applied to international shipping, especially in deepsea trades. This will need to be a key component of the IMO strategy when detailed ideas for long term measures are taken forward during 2020.”

The ICS board also endorsed the recommendation of the ICS Manning and Training Sub-Committee that ICS should encourage IMO to embark on a comprehensive review of the IMO STCW Convention governing seafarers’ and training and certification standards, given increasing questions as to whether the STCW regime, which was last given a major overhaul in 1995, is still fit for purpose in the 21st century.

The meeting also expressed serious concern about the deteriorating security situation in the Gulf of Guinea where there has been a sharp increase in the number of attacks on ships’ crews, many extremely violent.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Well done, the ICS.

    This is certainly right and it is good to see the owners’ trade association, rather than the regulators, saying it.

    I’ll just add that we are going to have to get serious about the nuclear powered merchant ship. Nuclear power isn’t the answer to all our problems, and we must keep in mind that merchant shipping cannot use the sort of reactors fitted to submarines because they use highly irradiated fuel, which we cannot, but we can certainly use nuclear for big long haul ships.

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