Future fuels and future direction in flux

Whether it was the disruptive theme of last week’s Nor-Shipping or a more general diverging of ideas is hard to say but in conversation with representatives of several leading equipment makers, it was difficult to discern any consensus as to the future direction of the industry.

A number of exhibitors that ShipInsight spoke to were not convinced of the need for level playing fields and a very small number even questioned the future relevance of the IMO itself, although usually for quite different reasons.

Some believed that regulation was necessary to drive technological advances, while others stated that making regulation without the necessary technology being available for its implementation was a wrong policy.

Surprisingly only a small number of exhibitors seemed aware of the initiative by BIMCO, WSC and IPTA to be presented at MEPC71 which if implemented would see the IMO establish an International Maritime Research Board with a mandate ‘to direct and fund research and development of new and improved marine propulsion systems, electric generation plants, fuels, and ship design’.

There was plenty of support for hybrid solutions but almost everyone agreed that this was only an option for smaller vessel types and for larger vessels very much likely to be a niche concept for use in very short time periods. Fuel cells were considered by those who should be in the know, to be an option only sometime well in to the future, hydrogen was similarly dismissed and even LNG was considered as likely to still be a minority fuel in 2030. Opinions on the availability of ultra-low sulphur fuels to meet the 2020 deadline were also mixed.

On the final day of the show there were very few senior persons still present to discuss the decision of the US to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. It is a decision that will influence the future direction of shipping in many ways but still too early for anything more than speculation