Skip to main content



Friday, September 17, 2021 

The organisers of the SMM trade fair, Hamburg Messe und Congress (HMC), cite the recent study by EMSA, the European Maritime Safety Agency, which suggests ship traffic in Europe emits 140 million tonnes of CO2 per year, nearly one fifth of global maritime greenhouse gas emissions, which HMC describes as "a staggering number".

Adina Vãlean, EU Commissioner for Transport, said: “Despite the fact that the shipping sector has improved its environmental footprint in recent years, major challenges remain for decarbonisation.”

Maritime stakeholders are well aware of their responsibility, as the current SMM Maritime Industry Report (MIR), a broad survey among decision-makers in the shipping, shipbuilding and supply segments, shows. 70% of responding shipowners said they intend to invest in their fleets in the next two years to cut emissions. 85% of responding decision-makers at shipyards and supply companies see environment protection and sustainability at the top of the maritime agenda in the coming years, making it the most important topic by far.

So, according to Claus Ulrich Selbach, HMC Business Unit Director – Maritime and Technology Fairs and Exhibitions, there is plenty of willingness – but what about realisation? "From low-emission engines to smart operating software, and through to reliable ballast water management systems, our exhibitors at SMM in September next year will highlight everything that is technically possible. We are the showcase of state-of-the-art maritime technologies," Selbach said.

One key question has yet to be answered: LNG, hybrid technologies, biofuels, batteries, hydrogen or ammonia – which propulsion technology is it going to be? The uncertainty is clearly reflected in the SMM MIR, which indicates a cautious change of focus. LNG, long favoured as a transitional fuel, has lost some support among responding shipowners: Only 35% would opt for LNG-powered ships today, compared to 45% in 2019. On the other hand, 60% of responding shipyards expect high demand for LNG-propelled vessels, an assessment supported by a number of major newbuilding orders received from owners like Hapag-Lloyd. Hybrid solutions – such as combinations of fossil fuels with battery technology – are considered as promising by responding shipyards in particular. 56% expressed a strong belief in these solutions (compared to 44% of suppliers, and 32% of shipowners).

Maersk has recently ordered eight large vessels (16,000 TEU) using methanol as fuel. "In this scenario, renewable energy is used to produce hydrogen, which is then converted into methanol, an alcohol that can be used almost like diesel. It is even possible to convert our older ships to methanol," said Maersk CEO Søren Skou.

Maersk expects to reduce its CO2 emissions by 1m t/y. trend towards methanol is reflected in the MIR results: Every seventh respondent would opt for methanol as fuel. All in all, hydrogen-based solutions take second place among the fuels favoured by shipowners, showing a 33%.

Another potential game changer for the industry is ammonia: Not only does it burn without emitting CO2 similar to hydrogen, but it also features higher energy density and is easier to store. Strong arguments in favour of this fuel, says shipowner Alfred Hartmann, president of the German Shipowners Association (VDR). His tanker company has joined forces with MAN Energy Solutions and ammonia specialist OCI to jointly build a maritime NH3 gas value chain.

HMC strongly believes that conventional fossil fuels will soon be a matter of the past. The ratio of shipowners preferring HFO dropped from 20% in 2019 to 8% now, while the 20% approval rating of MDO in year 2019 has nearly been cut in half.

Dr. Uwe Lauber, CEO MAN Energy Solutions, said: "When it comes to shipping, the discussion always revolves around the technical aspects. But the technology needed to accomplish the maritime energy transition has been fully available for some time. For years the challenge has been at the political and general societal level. We are perfectly able to build engines running on zero-emission fuels today. But we cannot make the decision to bring synthetic fuels to the market by ourselves."

Whatever the case, to achieve zero-emission shipping those in charge need to make far-reaching decisions. DNV's 'Decarbonisation Stairway' offers a practical guide including detailed calculations and scenarios which help the industry navigate around risks and uncertainties.

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO DNV Maritime, said: "A misstep today in newbuild fuel strategies can have damaging consequences for businesses and assets in the future.”

All of this will also be a key topic at September's SMM in Hamburg. "There will be first-rate experts on site for companies to consult with on the maritime transition. We can only hope to overcome climate change, the greatest challenge of our time, by combining all available know-how,” said Selbach.

Reader Comments (0)

There are currently no comments on this article. Why not be the first and leave your thoughts below.

Leave Your Comment

Please keep your comment on topic, any inappropriate comments may be removed.

Return to index