RESPONDING to the UN Secretary-General’s call for “urgency and ambition” on climate change, international shipping industry bodies are backing a proposal to catalyse the complete decarbonisation of maritime transport by deployment at scale of zero-carbon ships within a decade.

The proposal, submitted by governments controlling a major share of the world’s shipping tonnage to the UN International Maritime Organization, is to establish a US$5 billion “IMO Maritime Research Fund” using mandatory contributions from the world’s shipping companies.

A press release from BIMCO, CLIA, IMCA, INTERCARGO, INTERFERRY, International Chamber of Shipping INTERTANKO, IPTA and World Shipping Council called the program a “moon-shot proposal”.

This new fund will support a new International Maritime Research and Development Board (IMRB) to commission collaborative programmes for the applied research and development of zero-carbon technologies, specifically tailored for maritime application, including development of working prototypes. It will also assist carbon dioxide reduction projects in developing countries, including Pacific island nations.

The proposal is led by major shipping nations including Georgia, Greece, Japan, Liberia, Malta, Nigeria, Palau, Singapore and Switzerland.

Industry bodies are calling all governments to approve the proposal at a critical IMO meeting in London in November, which will coincide with the next UN Climate Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow. This is the only fully detailed proposal available to deliver the speed and scale called for by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, the press release said. Failure by UN member states to support this initiative could significantly set back progress towards the decarbonisation of shipping.

The press release said decarbonisation can only take place with a significant acceleration of research and development, as zero-carbon technologies do not yet exist that can be applied at scale to large ocean-going ships. A well-funded research and development program, which the industry has agreed to pay for within a global regulatory framework, needs to commence immediately under the supervision of the IMO.

“Recognising the urgency and ambition required to decarbonise, shipping industry groups are calling for all governments to be on the right side of history in supporting this ambitious proposal,” the press release said.

“The big challenge is not building a single zero carbon ship, the big challenge is creating the technologies needed to decarbonise the entire global fleet at speed and scale.

“The sooner the IMO Maritime Research Fund is established, the sooner industry can develop zero emission ships to decarbonise maritime transport.”