Maritime’s scant R&D spend highlighted ahead of tomorrow’s MEPC gathering

Ahead of tomorrow’s start of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) gathering at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has tapped data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) to hammer home its repeated demands for a decarbonisation research and development fund.

Maritime spending on R&D is paltry compared to other industries, data from the IEA shows starkly.

Maritime’s R&D spending between 2007 to 2019 remained stagnant. R&D in the automotive sector, any contrast, has increased from $67bn in 2009 to a $130bn in 2019, the IEA data shows. Maritime meanwhile spent just $1.6bn on R&D in 2019 (see chart below).

The ICS has put forward a plan to charge an extra $2 per tonne of marine fuel purchased to create a $5bn R&D fund over the coming decade to spur decarbonisation breakthroughs – a sum of money that has been attacked by many as being too little.

Guy Platten, secretary general of the ICS, commented: “While pledges on reducing emissions are welcome, we desperately need action today in our unique internationalised industry. There are no silver bullets and while some try to suggest that we already have the technologies, the reality is far from the truth. Governments need to look beyond the sales brochures and wishful thinking of others to invest in technologies that are safe and sustainable and without negative side effects for other parts of the environment.”

Platten said the proposed $5bn International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB) could provide the necessary “patient capital”.

Platten concluded: “If we can’t get political consensus now on the urgent need for R&D how are going to reach the much-needed political consensus for a sustainable and equitable carbon price signal that will incentivise the market to decarbonise at the speed and scale needed.”

Splash will be bringing readers regular updates from MEPC in the coming days.

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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