Zero-carbon shipping an uphill but crucial climb

As an accomplished speaker, Pernille Dahlgaard, chief government, business & analytics officer at Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping (MMMCZCS) in Denmark, is relentless in educating and advocating green progress in international maritime conferences and summits.

Most recently, Dahlgaard spoke at Singapore Maritime Week 2024 in April where she emphasized that green transformation is moving across the maritime landscape at an increasing rate. “It is no longer an “if” but a “when” and “how”.” In order to be future-ready and future-proof, she commented that the focus now must be on global standards for fuel and safety to ensure the coming IMO regulations have the required effect. “Further, understanding the cost picture of the transition and how it compares to the cost of doing nothing (which is very significant) holds the key to unlocking the necessary investments.”

In an interview with Maritime Fairtrade, Dahlgaard shared her thoughts on the practical ways the sector needs to step up and a new partnership category which MMMCZCS has launched to push progress forward.

What are the fuels and technologies that could support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships?

As opposed to today, we see a multi-fuel future where not one fuel will be the standard. The “easy” fuel is bio-diesel, that can be blended directly into the current fuel. However, there are supply limitations and a bit of demand as this is a very usable fuel. The other green fuels we consider key in the future are green methanol, green ammonia and green methane. They all come with pros and cons and some are more mature than others; but technically, they are all relevant options. 

Which provisions must be in order to ensure safe operation of these new technologies and alternative fuels ?

Global solutions and regulatory agreements are of the essence as the maritime industry is global in its nature. For example, it is not effective to have different sets of requirements in different countries, as the vessels should be able to operate all over the globe. From a GHG perspective, it is essential to agree on a global fuel standard based on a solid life-cycle analysis that covers the full well-to-wake perspective. 

From an operational perspective, we need to have clear bunkering and operations guidelines, including safety measures and rules for how to protect the staff, environment, and communities that could potentially be affected by an accident. Many initiatives are ongoing in different parts of the world.

What are the skillsets currently lacking in seafarers in implementing zero-carbon shipping?

We have very skilled seafarers who are open and willing to adopt the future green world. This is encouraging as we are facing a significant shortage of seafarers’ upskilling. Needless to say, this is fundamental in order to operate a future global fleet that is all green. It is particularly important for the operation of ammonia vessels, but also methanol vessels which require further education. 

The daunting task here is the number of seafarers who need additional education. There are a million seafarers globally that need to go through a training program over the coming decade. Once the processes and regulations have been determined, the massive task of getting everybody on board will be next.

Tell us more about MMMCZCS’ new partnership category.

The core fundamental for the MMMCZCS is collaboration. We are here to drive the maritime industry towards net-zero in 2050. To achieve that, we need the best brains from the global ecosystem. This is why we have strategic partners across the entire value chain who have committed to send some of their smartest people to the Center. This will enable us to come up with solutions to the most complex problems that are preventing the green transition. 

Partnering with academia is a logical step and a natural continuation of the collaboration trajectory we are on. As a science-based center, it is important that we are building our recommendations on the newest research.

Editor’s note: MMMCZCS’ four new academic partners: University of Michigan, Maritime Research Alliance, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and World Maritime University.

Photo credit: Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping. Pernille Dahlgaard, chief government, business & analytics officer, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping

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