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Monday, October 18, 2021 

A recent three-day online conference organised by IMO in conjunction with the UN Environmental Partnership and the Norwegian Government concluded that collaboration and knowledge sharing around innovation are the most effective ways to propel the global maritime industry towards a decarbonised future.

The online event involved over 1,000 participants from across the world and discussed technological, financing and regulation aspects of the road to zero- and no-carbon  outcomes.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “The energy transition of the maritime industry will require new technologies, low- and zero- carbon (renewable) alternative fuels and infrastructure to support low- and zero-carbon shipping. Innovation is core to its success. The IMO-UNEP-Norway Zero- and Low-Emission Innovation Forum is a recognition of this need. This is a novel forum to promote further cooperation and exchange of best practices, and to learn from other sectors where a similar transition has taken place on the global scale.”

An important focus for the forum was addressing the specific needs of developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). One solution proposed was to raise awareness of innovation projects, financing opportunities and areas of mutual growth of LDCs and SIDS so that they were not left to re-invent the decarbonisation wheel. Speakers highlighted that coordinated actions to reduce emissions from shipping could be achieved by bringing together the R&D initiatives and R&D centres in developed countries (such as Singapore Global Maritime Decarbonization Centre, Maersk Center for Zero-Carbon Shipping) with those in developing regions, such as the IMO/EU Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCCs).

Finance was a prominent topic during the forum, with emphasis given to the need to bring onboard the private sector, national banks and International Financial Institutions in a coordinated manner. Many speakers noted that this kind of coordination would require innovative financial solutions to underwrite some of the associated risks, something that could be achieved through Government support and International Financial Institution interventions.

A number of practical strategies were recommended, including:

  • joining and connecting the pilot projects and research and development initiatives (in developed and developing regions) and sharing the lessons learned and outcomes;
  • sharing information and linking maritime decarbonization initiatives projects using the IMO-Singapore NextGEN portal;
  • linking R&D Centres in developed countries closer to the regional centres, as well as existing maritime decarbonization projects in the developed world;
  • fast-tracking port-linked innovations, as many ports are under national frameworks which may support some immediate buy-ins and investment;
  • ensuring capacity building of maritime authorities, ports, especially in developing countries, on funding opportunities, potentially available grants and finance options, as well as bankable projects development needs;
  • educating policy makers, training project leaders with regard to bankable proposal creation, identifying innovation funding in research institutes and engaging with seafarers as technology users;
  • proposing/developing more IMO pilot projects to include technology demonstrations, including more pilot projects in IMO-implemented GHG-related projects, as well as technology demonstrations; and
  • arranging further innovation forums to offer a global platform for regular dialogue and exchange of innovation experiences to support the objectives of the Initial IMO GHG strategy.

IMO was seen as the ideal forum for disseminating information, facilitating collaboration and consolidating the work to spread innovation across the maritime value chain.


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