Liner lobbying group urges IMO to create alternative fuel research body

The World Shipping Council (WSC), the Washington-based liner shipping lobbying group, will pitch the creation of an International Maritime Research Board (IMRB) at a November meeting at the London headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to drive global research and development of alternative fuels.

Speaking as keynote at this morning’s Container Trade Europe Conference organised by the Journal of Commerce in Hamburg, John Bulter, president and CEO of the WSC, told delegates: “With transported demand expected to increase, future targets can only be reached with alternative fuels and a move away from reliance on fossil fuels.”

Butler’s call for a collaborative research board will be heard in two months’ when IMO meets to discuss short-term greenhouse gas (GHG) cutting measures.

“The need to start is now, and this research will need to run in parallel with other ongoing initiatives, and not compete with them,” Butler said, adding: “The shipping fuels of the future will need not only to eliminate GHGs, but be commercially viable and cost effective.”

In the subsequent Q&A session, main issues raised centered around how this IMRB would be funded, and by who. Butler acknowledged that many billions of dollars would be required, and although this sounds “a lot”, considered against current and future fuel consumption, the cost per ton would be relatively modest. It was implied that ship operators would need to contribute based on how much fossil fuel each one burned, which might then take the form of a “fossil fuel surcharge”, and which would then be expected to passed on to shippers and ultimately consumers. Although the WSC represents only the containership sector, the proposed research board could and should also include other modes of shipping, Butler said.

The liner lobbyist stated that one of the goals of the IMRB would be to make itself redundant, having determined the fuels required for the future, this would then need to be adopted by the industry who would then take responsibility for the realisation and implementation.

When asked if oil companies might be part of the IMRB, Butler said that “any oil company with vision to become more general energy providers would have a role to play”.

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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