Our News

Welcome to our blog


The use of biofuels in shipping sparks debate at New York’s Climate Change Week

The availability and sustainability of using biofuels for shipping has been a key initiative for the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) throughout 2019. This all stems from the maritime industry’s transition to zero-emission shipping. A debate took place at New York’s Climate Change Week, led by The SSI, on the potential for use of biofuels in shipping as the pressure increases to decarbonise the shipping fleet.

This debate was attended by a number of key experts and business leaders, including Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Leader of Climate and Energy Practice at the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Maersk’s Head of Sustainability Strategy and Chief Climate Change Advisor John Kornerup Bang; and Christine Weydig, Director of the Office of Environmental and Energy Programs in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Merchant shipping is currently responsible for between 2%-3% of the world’s total carbon emissions. There are strict new regulations coming into effect from 1 January 2020 imposed by the International Maritime Organization and concerns are growing over the environmental impact of the maritime industry. There are views that the increased use of biofuels in shipping could be a potential solution to reduce the environmental impact as they would produce fewer harmful emissions than the current fuel use.

The main challenges that are raising concerns about this approach are the indirect carbon emissions that could potentially result if the biofuels are sourced from crops grown on land, largely due to land use change to grow crop-based fuels.

Andrew Stephens, Executive Director from the Sustainable shipping Initiative, said: “We’re delighted to bring some critical voices to the conversation on zero-emission shipping at Climate Week. Getting to zero by 2050 is a bold ambition but it is possible. Shipping needs to kickstart its energy transition now, and for that to happen we need to explore all the sustainable options that can get us there. Our panel will unpack the issues surrounding the use biofuels in shipping – alongside other non-fossil fuels and technologies such as ammonia, hydrogen and batteries. There are more questions than answers, but what remains clear is that investors, shipowners and ship builders, ports and fuel suppliers need to know in which infrastructure they should start investing.”

Chief Executive at sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future Sally Uren, who moderated the debate, said: “It has never been more urgent for the shipping sector to move away from fossil fuels, and – while there are no silver bullets – it is clear that the risks of ‘doing nothing’ are simply too great. Our climate can’t wait; and neither can actors across the shipping value chain who need to make critical investment decisions today. The role of biofuels in the sector’s decarbonisation needs to be set out, and we need cross-sectoral collaboration across the maritime, energy, climate and sustainability communities if we are to avoid a host of unintended consequences.”
Source: Government Europa

What are your views? Do you think biofuels could help play a part in the maritime industry’s transition to zero-emission shipping?