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Thursday, March 11, 2021 

(Illustration courtesy Deltamarin, BAR and Cargill) Responding to a call from the UN Secretary-General for “urgency and ambition” on climate change, a group of global shipping industry organisations is giving “full and unequivocal” backing to a moon-shot proposal submitted by governments, to catalyse the complete decarbonisation of maritime transport by deployment at scale of zero-carbon ships within a decade.

A statement issued by BIMCO, CLIA, IMCA, Intercargo, Interferry, International Chamber of Shipping Intertanko, IPTA and World Shipping Council, explains that the proposal, being submitted to IMO by governments controlling a major share of the world’s shipping tonnage, seeks to establish a US$5bn 'IMO Maritime Research Fund' using mandatory contributions from the world’s shipping companies. 

The new fund supports the proposed new International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB) to commission collaborative programmes for the applied R&D of zero-carbon technologies, specifically tailored for maritime application, including development of working prototypes. It will assist CO2 reduction projects in developing countries, including Pacific island nations.

The shipping industry is urging all governments to approve this mature moon-shot proposal – led by major shipping nations including Georgia, Greece, Japan, Liberia, Malta, Nigeria, Singapore, Switzerland – at the meeting at IMO in London in November 2021, which will coincide with the next UN Climate Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow. This is the only fully detailed proposal available to deliver the speed and scale called for by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. Failure by UN member states to support this initiative could significantly set back progress towards the decarbonisation of shipping.

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.

Recognising the urgency and ambition required to decarbonise, shipping industry groups are calling for all governments to be on the right side of history in supporting this ambitious proposal.

International shipping transports more than 80% of global trade and emits 2% of global emissions. The big challenge is not building a single zero carbon ship, but lies in creating the technologies needed to decarbonise the entire global fleet at speed and scale. The sooner the IMO Maritime Research Fund is established, the sooner industry can develop zero emission ships to decarbonise maritime transport.

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