Green steel: Decarbonizing across ship lifecycle

According to the new Green Steel and Shipping Report by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), addressing steel emissions is critical to decarbonizing across the ship lifecycle and provides opportunities for collaboration with the steel sector and other steel demand sectors.

Steel is the primary shipbuilding material, making over 75% of a vessel by weight, and the steel industry is responsible for 7-9% of global GHG emissions. 

The research follows on from SSI’s 2021 Exploring Shipping’s Transition to a Circular Industry Report, which discussed the need to address circularity and lifecycle challenges ahead of the waterfall of vessels that will be recycled in the coming decades as the industry undergoes a decarbonization-driven shift.

Current decarbonization efforts in shipping focus on and address emissions at the operational phase of a ship’s lifecycle. However, for shipping to decarbonize in a way that futureproofs the industry to 2050 and beyond, we need greater recognition of the emissions and sustainability aspects of the materials that make up a ship, as well as their lifespans, repairability, and re-use. 

The report focuses on steel as the primary material of a vessel and uses the following definition of green steel: “steel that is certified as meeting the highest levels of environmental, social and governance performance (ESG), rather than only addressing the release of greenhouse gases.”

Using green steel for shipbuilding is possible, and demand for this is starting to grow. 

SteelZero signatories, which include shipowner A.P. Moller-Maersk and CIMC TCREA (the steel buying division of container manufacturer CIMC) commit to using 50% lower embodied emissions steel by 2030.

The report identified drivers and barriers to closing the loop on steel in shipping, including the challenge of scrap steel supply, growing regulation around sustainability and emissions reporting, as well as the potential for tools, such as material passports, to enable demand and uptake of green steel in shipping. 

The need for traceability and transparency across the steel lifecycle was identified as a key lever to shore up demand for green steel in shipbuilding, creating a system that allows green steel users to prove its GHG emissions reductions and other sustainability credentials.

Andreea Miu, Head of Decarbonization, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, said: “The shipping and steel sectors are interconnected and there are untapped opportunities for the two to work together to decarbonize sustainably. 

“As a demand sector for green steel, shipping can support the steel sector’s decarbonization journey while simultaneously addressing a source of its own scope 3 emissions. At the same time, the steel industry stands to benefit both from sustainable, zero emission maritime transport and from scrap steel sourced from end-of-life vessels. 

“We hope that this report can build awareness and interest in the potential for green steel in shipping, in circularity, and the role shipping can play in enabling a sustainable, future-proof global system.”

Photo credit: iStock/ nightman1965

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