From left: Edward Liu, principal representative of ICS (China) Liaison Office; Yim Kong, vice-chairman of China Merchants Port Group; and Eddie Lee, group engineering director of Hutchison Port Holdings exchange ideas at a panel discussion. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)

Reducing shipping carbon emissions and strengthening collaboration with industry counterparts are the keys to achieving a green transformation of the maritime industry, heavyweights said during a keynote session at the second World Maritime Merchants Forum.

Themed “Building Green and Intelligent Ports”, the session discussed leveraging the resources and advantages of Hong Kong as an international shipping center, exploring new ideas for industry development in the new era, and transforming and upgrading the industrial chain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the resilience of the shipping industry under the spotlight, said Sabrina Chao Sih-ming, president of the Baltic and International Maritime Council.

“With limited availability and high prices of green fuels, the immediate priority for the entire maritime sector is to close the cost gap between traditional fossil fuels and environmentally friendly fuels.”

Digital innovation has been gathering pace during the pandemic. The shipping industry needs to continue to drive digital development and accelerate shipping’s green transition, Chao said.

The maritime industry is facing multiple complex challenges such as geopolitical tensions, market unpredictability, green and low-carbon transformation, and digital innovation, with decarbonization presenting a major challenge, said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of leading maritime consultancy DNV Maritime. 

He believes that new technologies and digitalization will be essential to the decarbonization process.

“The green transformation of the shipping industry cannot be achieved without the collaboration of the entire industry chain,” he said. “It is a task that no single company or single industry can accomplish on its own.”

The reduction of shipping’s carbon emissions is now at the top of the agenda for global regulator International Maritime Organization, said Simon Bennett, deputy secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping.

“As part of this agenda, we’ve now got the development of a global economic measure to help accelerate the transition to zero emissions which, I think everyone now agrees, is the ultimate goal given that shipping is responsible for between 2 percent and 3 percent of the world economies’ total emissions,” Bennett said.

Yim Kong, vice-chairman of China Merchants Port Group, said the international shipping market is volatile with instabilities in the supply chain, requiring the port and the shipping sectors to cooperate well in order to overcome these difficulties.

“On the one hand, we need to continue (with) our measures of cost saving. On the other hand, we still need to invest more to reach our consensus goal of the emissions cut in the shipping industry,” Yim said. 

Yim described green transportation as “an unstoppable trend”, as evidenced by carriers’ fast-growing demands for switching to hydrogen and other new energy forms, and port operators’ moves toward using more renewable power sources, like solar and wind.

“In such regards, we need to be ready to embrace the change. The low carbon era is coming,” he said.

Laure Baratgin, head of commercial operations for Rio Tinto — one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations — called on players in the shipping industry to translate their low-carbon strategies into action, while monitoring and assessing the impact of implementation.

With safety a top priority, stakeholders should also work together on areas such as green technologies, innovation and infrastructure, she said, and working on these areas requires responsiveness, new measures, and the need to encourage first movers.

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