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Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Shipping needs clarity on fuels future

Wed 06 Dec 2017 by Paul Fanning

Shipping needs clarity on fuels future

While we are assured fossil fuels are on the way out, Paul Fanning asks how it will happen

Speaking to an audience of bunker suppliers recently, International Chamber of Shipping director of policy Simon Bennett warned that there may no longer be significant demand for fossil fuels within as little as 25 years.

The argument was that the momentum created by the Paris Agreement means that a wholesale switch to alternative fuels will become inevitable. And, while there will still be vessels using fossil fuels as late as 2050, these, Mr Bennett suggests, will be the equivalent of people still using horses in 1920.

This is a bold assertion – bolder, in fact, than many others have been prepared to be. However, what it lacks is detail. How will this transition take place? What fuels will it use and where will they come from? Most crucially, where will the infrastructure come from to support it?

Mr Bennett says that he is confident that technology and bunkering infrastructure will arrive that allow this shift to take place, saying that the change will occur “using fuel cells or batteries powered by renewable energy, technologies such as hydrogen or some other solution we can't yet anticipate”.

However, it’s hard not to feel that this vagueness as to exactly how this goal will be achieved slightly undermines the confidence of the original assertion that it will. And unfortunately, until such time as someone can come up with a meaningful technological and infrastructural roadmap, people can be forgiven for taking statements such as these with a pinch of salt.

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