Shipping officially submits its $5bn decarbonisation ‘moonshot’ proposal to the IMO

A number of countries are backing the shipping industry’s call for a $5bn R&D fund to help decarbonise the sector – a bid to hold off regulators such as the European Union from making their own emissions plans.

The much discussed proposal – dubbed shipping’s decarbonisation moonshot – was officially submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) yesterday, backed by member states including Greece, Japan, Liberia and Singapore.

The so-called IMO Maritime Research Fund would take mandatory contributions from the world’s shipping companies, working out at roughly $2 per tonne of bunker fuel, to support a new International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB) to commission collaborative programmes for the applied research and development R&D of zero-carbon maritime technologies, including development of working prototypes. It will also assist CO2 reduction projects in developing countries, including Pacific island nations.

The proposal is backed by all the major global shipping associations who are lobbying hard to get it ratified at the next gathering of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) later this year.

“Decarbonisation can only take place with a significant acceleration of R&D, as zero-carbon technologies do not yet exist that can be applied at scale to large ocean-going ships. A well-funded R&D programme, which the industry has agreed to pay for within a global regulatory framework, needs to commence immediately under the supervision of the UN IMO,” a joint press release from nine of the world’s top global shipping organisations claimed yesterday.

A number of environmental groups have lambasted the proposal, saying the $5bn figure is too small.

Shipping is increasingly facing up to the real possibility of regional environmental legislation leaping ahead of the IMO, which hitherto has served as the industry’s global regulator. Carbon levies have been hotly discussed in recent months. The industry is likely to be included in Europe’s emissions trading scheme, with the US and China looking at similar schemes.

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. Moonshot? $5b over 10 years? Di’s right. time for the real money, enough of this low ambition MBM-lite rubbish, what we need is a proper carbon tax, $100tonne/CO2e entry price, regular upward ratchets. Needs to be shovel ready by 2023.

    1. Has the impact of this suggestion been analysed for its impact on world trade or is this just another in the endless stream of calls for net zero that will push us back into a trade limited, disease ridden, cold, dark and hungry world. Some of the golden pheasants in the Green lobby need to come clean about their intentions and agendas. There seems to be a flood of eco-fascism about.

    2. IMRB R&D Fund is not a MBM, it’s the maritime industry’s initiative raise money urgently needed and used to speed up R&D and technological development within the industry, that’s required to decarbonize shipping.
      Very few countries in the world is currently “throwing” or “offering” money to the maritime industry to help in the industry’s effort to decarbonize. UN countries are offering “money” at a national level to projects that contribute to reduce GHG emissions and to decarbonize the nations GHG inventory. These UN countries are often the same as the IMO member states, but countries don’t want to invest their money in IMO:s decarbonizing efforts because this will not yield in any GhG reductions in National GHG inventories . There are a few exceptions, some individual member states contribute financially on a voluntary basis, but it’s not enough .

      Dear Sir, in your opinion there should be a proper carbon tax and you state this should be $100 per ton CO2e. Out of curiosity , how did you end up with the number $100? What is the basis for it?

  2. Hi Matts, all up on IMODOCs shortly. Of course $100 is only the entry price, we need to get to $250-400tonne pretty quickly

    1. When you’ve got them by the ($250 a tonne carbon tax), their (innovation in emissions free ships) is sure to follow.

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