International maritime transport is currently responsible for approximately 2% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The U.N. International Maritime Organization (IMO), has targeted a 50% cut in the sector’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A group of international shipowner associations representing over 90% of the world merchant fleet has proposed to meet this target by forming a collaborative shipping R&D program.

The proposal seeks to accelerate the development of zero-carbon emission ships by the early 2030s by establishing a non-governmental R&D body focused on the decarbonization of shipping. The initiative will be supported by $5 billion in core funding for an International Maritime Research Fund from shipping companies over a 10-year period. Shipping companies will be subject to a mandatory R&D contribution of $2/ton of marine fuel purchased for consumption to generate the fund.

Achieving the IMO 2050 target will require a carbon efficiency improvement of up to 90% and will require development and deployment of new zero-carbon technologies and propulsion systems, including those based on hydrogen and ammonia, fuel cells, batteries and synthetic fuels produced from renewable energy sources.

The proposal will be considered in London at the next meeting of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in March 2020.

Schematic of the contribution system. Source: International Chamber of ShippingSchematic of the contribution system. Source: International Chamber of Shipping

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