ICS warns traditional bunker suppliers could be out of a job within 25 years

Marine bunker suppliers should anticipate that there may no longer be significant demand for fossil fuels from shipping within as little as 25 years, if not sooner, and that the sector is now on an inevitable trajectory towards a future of zero CO2 emissions.

This was the message that the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) delivered to the Platts’ Mediterranean marine bunker fuel conference in Athens today.

ICS is representing the world’s national shipowner associations at the UN IMO negotiations on CO2 reduction.

“Addressing an audience of bunker fuel suppliers about the imminent transition to zero carbon fuels is perhaps like Henry Ford addressing suppliers to horses and carts,” said ICS director of policy, Simon Bennett.

“Henry Ford remarked that if, in say 1890, you had asked someone in the street what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.”

Bennett said the wholesale switch to alternative fuels and propulsion systems will be “relentless and inevitable”.

On the controversial question of the possible development of a market based measure to help reduce CO2 emissions from shipping, Bennett said that an MBM – most likely a fuel levy – was likely to go forward as a possible candidate measure as part of the initial UN IMO strategy to be agreed next April.

However, regardless of the political momentum behind a fuel levy, he said the industry remained deeply sceptical about the ability of MBMs to further incentivise meaningful reductions in fuel consumption.

“Fuel is already by far shipping’s greatest cost, and we already expect a truly massive increase in bunker costs as a result of the switch to low sulphur fuels required by the IMO global sulphur cap that comes into effect in January 2020,” Bennett said.

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.
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