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Big Week of Innovations for Zero-emissions Shipping

This past week, ocean cargo shipping had mentions during the World Oceans Summit, in President Biden’s State of the Union Address, and saw two new announcements with zero-emissions technological advancements. Summary below in case you missed any of these exciting announcements for ocean cargo shipping:

At The Economist’s 9th annual World Oceans Summit this week, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry gave a keynote interview in which he explained that carbon dioxide emissions for shipping were “equivalent to the 8th largest country in the world in terms of pollution.” He highlighted the threats to ocean wildlife from fossil fuel pollution, sharing, “the level of carbon dioxide emissions acidifying the oceans… diminishes the ability of crustaceans to make their shells… We run the risk of tipping points with regard to coral reefs.” To address these problems, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate called on American corporations to take rapid responsibility for the health of our oceans: “What is needed above all are corporations to step up and act responsibly,” Kerry said, citing Amazon’s leadership in the First Mover’s Coalition. He also called on countries that didn’t make commitments during COP26 to “step up at Sharm el-Sheikh. We have to raise global ambition. If we don’t reduce emissions significantly, we will not reverse the chemistry deterioration of the ocean itself.”

On March 1, President Biden mentioned port modernization and environmental justice in his State of the Union address, saying “We’ll create good jobs for millions of Americans, modernizing roads, airports, ports, and waterways all across America. And we’ll do it all to withstand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and promote environmental justice.” He also referred to the 2020’s as “An Infrastructure Decade.”

Earlier on in the week, California-based Boundary Layer Technologies, a marine technology startup, revealed its operational plans and engineering design for its zero-emissions hydrofoiling containership, known as ARGO. ARGO offers the flexibility of docking virtually anywhere, allowing it to bypass heavily congested and polluted ports. The company plans to operate these vessels to establish a zero-emission shipping service that can replace air freight along major intra-Asia trade lanes. Companies like Amazon would be able to begin shipping freight emission-free as early as Q3 2024.

Additionally, Ballard Power Systems and ABB announced this week that they received approval for high-power fuel cell concepts. The approved fuel cell concept is capable of generating 3 megawatts, or 4,000 HP, of electrical power, enabling ships to travel fossil-free.

Statement from the Ship It Zero Coalition:

“The Biden administration is sending a strong signal that zero-emissions and environmental justice will shape the future of international ocean cargo shipping,” said Dawny’all Heydari, Campaign Lead of the Ship It Zero Campaign at Pacific Environment. “We welcome President Biden and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry’s interest in advancing a horizon of hope for our dying oceans and port neighbors, and we call on the Biden administration to follow up with action. We stand with environmental justice partners in calling on President Biden to set a national zero emission ship standard and protect port communities now.”

Just recently, cargo carrier Maersk has emerged as a global industry leader. The Danish international shipping company has accelerated its initial climate ambitions by a decade, with current commitments of 25-50% decarbonization by 2030 and a reduction of portside emissions by 5 million tons per year at up to 100 ports globally starting in 2028 through electrification projects.

This news for zero-emissions ocean cargo shipping comes at a crucial time. Since Fall 2021, an unprecedented number of fossil-fueled cargo ships have been clogging ports, dumping egregious levels of asthma and cancer-causing air pollutants into nearby neighborhoods, as reported in The Guardian. Indeed according to the California Air Resources Board, the pandemic era fossil-fueled ocean cargo ship congestion crisis has increased particulate matter emissions by an equivalent to 100,000 big rig trucks per day in Los Angeles and Long Beach, home to the largest port complex in the Western Hemisphere. This is exacerbating an ongoing public health crisis for the West Long Beach, Wilmington, and San Pedro communities, which already experience up to eight years lower life expectancy than the Los Angeles County average, as reported in KTLA.

Meanwhile, the science shows that the solution is within grasp. According to a 2020 International Council on Clean Transportation study, virtually all voyages made between China’s Pearl River Delta ports and California’s San Pedro Bay ports could be powered by green hydrogen instead of fossil fuels, with only minor changes to ships’ fuel capacity or operations. Specifically, “this could be achieved by replacing 5% of certain ships’ cargo space with more hydrogen fuel, or by adding one additional port call to refuel hydrogen en route.” Even still, “43% of all voyages could be completed without adding any fuel capacity or extra port calls.”
Source: Pacific Environment

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