We should grow LNG ship fleet and bunkering capacity as the world works tirelessly to develop zero emission fuels.

To meet the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets of 2030 and 2050, the maritime industry must take a two pronged approach, which is to grow LNG ship fleet and bunkering capacity while the complex work to develop zero emission fuels continues. 

LNG is the best commercially available marine fuel today and will remain so in the near future. The commercial availability of zero emission fuels are a decade or more away – doing nothing until they are available will result in needless GHG emissions.

This two track approach is essential to maximising and accelerating shippings reduction in GHG emissions. If we wait until zero emission fuels are available, the marine industry will generate more GHG than necessary by missing the opportunity of the reduced emissions from LNG fuel. Likewise, LNG fuel is not the ultimate solution. Zero emission fuels, when developed, will offer greater GHG reductions and make good business sense for many applications. It’s not a question of doing one or the other. 

As the best commercially available marine fuel currently available, LNG makes good business sense from an operating and capital investment standpoint for many applications. LNG’s environmental footprint is significantly better than alternative fuels such as distillates and heavy fuel oils, having virtually no sulphur or particulate emission and significantly less nitrous oxide emission, resulting in substantially less local pollution around ports and port cities. 

Life cycle assessment of GHG emission has found LNG to be up to 33 % less than traditional heavy fuel oils, a performance which includes any methane slip along the life cycle value chain.  Combining LNG as a marine fuel with energy efficient design and operations can make a vessel complaint with IMO 2050 targets. 

While on a broader scale, zero emission fuels are crucial to the global fleet achieving the IMO targets, none are commercially available today and will not be for over a decade. The world is working unremittingly on determining the best technology and overcoming problems of scaling but, while there’s no question commercial-scale production will be achieved, it will take time.  

It’s a similar situation to the development of a COVID 19 vaccine development – there’s a lot of development happening across the globe, but it won’t happen overnight. One report estimates there is $1.4t worth of work required to develop the technology and install the infrastructure for zero emission fuels. 

If the maritime industry continues building vessels using distillate and HFO and wait for zero emission fuels, we won’t achieve IMO GHG emission targets. Among the several barriers is the fact that shipyards don’t have the capacity to build the required number of boats. It would also require scraping ships that are not at the end of their life, resulting in high costs.

The only way to maximise the reduction of maritime GHG emission and meet the IMO GHG emission targets is to grow LNG ship fleet and bunkering capacity, while the significant task of developing zero emission fuel continues. A two-pronged approach that is a logical and best cost alternative for the maritime industry.

  pdf Decarbonising Shipping Thought Piece (74 KB)



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