Decarbonising maritime transport by 2035

Sarah Carter
Sarah Carter

28 March 2018


Deployment of all currently known technologies could make it possible to almost completely decarbonise maritime shipping by 2035, according to a new report published by the International Transport Forum at the OECD. Four different decarbonisation pathways examined for the study would reduce international shipping’s CO2 emissions between 82% and 95% below the level currently projected for 2035. This reduction equals the annual emissions of 185 coal-fired power plants. Alternative fuels and renewable energy can deliver much of the required reductions. Currently available biofuels should be complemented by other natural or synthetic fuels such as methanol, ammonia and hydrogen. Wind assistance and electric propulsion have shown that they can bring additional reductions. Technological measures to improve the energy efficiency of ships could yield a substantial part of the needed emission reductions. Market-mature options include, among others, hull design improvements, air lubrication and bulbous bows. Operational improvements such as slower ship speeds, smoother ship-port co-ordination and use of larger, more efficient ships could bring further, important emission reductions. The report recommends to set a clear, ambitious emissions-reduction target to drive decarbonisation of maritime transport; support the realisation of emissions-reduction targets with a comprehensive set of policy measures; and provide smart financial incentives to advance decarbonisation of maritime shipping. “Certainty about the desirable decarbonisation pathway for shipping will help drive change”, said Olaf Merk, ports and shipping expert at ITF. "Clear guidance from governments is therefore essential to accelerate the transition towards zero-carbon shipping.“ The work for the report was carried out with support from the European Climate Foundation.