Shipping is in a fortunate position as the future fuel debate reaches its crescendo in that it has just two very dominant engine manufacturers. That was the argument put forward by Nikolas Tsakos, the president and CEO of New York-listed Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN), at a high profile online conference organised by the UK Chamber of Shipping on Thursday.
Tsakos said that while many new fuel options remained on the table, “we are down to two real engine makers”, Wartsila and MAN, which Tsakos said ought to speed up research and development issues, especially if they were to collaborate more together. When the technology behind future fuels is proven, shipowners will follow very quickly, Tsakos said.
Speaking on the same panel, chaired by ex-Euronav supremo Paddy Rodgers, was Dr Grahaeme Henderson, Shell’s global head of shipping, who said hydrogen was shipping’s best bet going forward, especially as other modes of transport such as road, rail and aviation are pursuing the same fuel path. As a result, hydrogen will become available all around the world and shipping will not have to pay for all the infrastructure costs of the new fuel, Henderson said.
The packed full-day event was the UK Chamber’s first virtual annual conference. It also featured John Denholm, the chamber’s president, calling on the British government to invest strategically in shipping decarbonisation as other nations look to do similar. As with other speakers during the day, Denholm said it was vital there was collaboration across the board between public and private bodies and academics to move shipping towards its decarbonisation goals.
Denholm also urged the government to ensure that rules were in place, post-Brexit, to ensure the right environment to attract international shipowners to set up on UK shores.
On the issue of collaboration, new Lloyd’s Register CEO Nick Brown, speaking at an environmental panel later in the day, said that broader sector stakeholders – insurance, charterers, finance – are starting to play their part in supporting lower carbon assets. Brown conceded owners face a “brutal decade” in terms of making very big fleet decisions ahead.