MAN roleplays shipping’s potentially imminent fossil fuel-free future

MAN, the giant European manufacturer responsible for nearly one in every two engines in the global merchant fleet, has run risk analysis modelling envisaging the phase-out of fossil fuels powering ships by as soon as the second half this decade.

MAN Energy Solutions has carried out a study on maritime energy transition in association with the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) in which it looks at four different scenarios for shipping on its path to decarbonisation through to the middle of the century.

2050 is just a single ship-generation away

“The maritime industry currently has a goal, but not yet a way to get there,” said Dr Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Energy Solutions. “By 2050, the International Maritime Organization wants greenhouse-gas emissions to fall by 50%, however these targets have not yet been backed up by concrete measures. Time is pressing – 2050 is just a single ship-generation away.”

MAN Energy Solutions said the results of its #AHOY50 study should serve as a wake-up call, something made all the more pertinent following the remarks made by John Kerry this week. The climate envoy for the Joe Biden administration in the US has this week called for the International Maritime Organization to lead shipping towards zero emissions by 2050, far exceeding current IMO targets for shipping to slash emissions by at least 50% compared to 2008 levels.

“With shipping, everyone always talks about the technical side. Technically, however, the maritime energy transition has long been feasible. For years, the challenge has been at the political and an overall, societal level,” said MAN’s Lauber, adding: “Today, we can build engines that run on zero-emission fuels, but making the decision to ramp up synthetic fuels in the market is not something we can do alone.”

The study approaches shipping as part of a global ecosystem. Beginning with societal awareness of the problem and the importance of climate protection – and extending it to commodity prices, global economic development and Covid-19 – a multitude of factors have been factored into the four different scenarios presented in the report.

“It is these interrelationships that will largely determine how resolutely the maritime energy transition is pursued,” Lauber commented.

A key takeaway from the study suggests that left to its own market forces, the shipping industry could persist in “self-optimisation mode” with limited dramatic and necessary change.

“A regulatory framework supported by social consensus, on the other hand, could trigger not only such a technological change, but also a boom in shipping as a result,” MAN stated, adding” “A complete ban on fossil fuels in the second half of the decade could significantly promote such a development.”

“A smartly-set, global, regulatory framework can turn the decarbonisation of shipping into a growth engine for the industry,” Lauber insisted.

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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