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UK Government announces its Clean Maritime Strategy

 By Prof. Lars Johanning, Professor of Ocean Technology, University of Exeter


On 11th July 2019, the UK Government formally announced its goal to accelerate the development of zero-emissions technology the shipping industry. This is a move which will dominate the agenda for our marine technology specialists for the next decade.

The Clean Maritime Plan builds on the Government’s existing Clean Air Strategy which aims to reduce pollution across all sectors, with the intention of improving public health and protecting the environment. It also builds on the Maritime 2050 Strategy which was launched earlier in 2019.

By 2025 the Government expects that:

·        All vessels operating in UK waters are maximising the use of energy efficiency options. All new vessels being ordered for use in UK waters are being designed with zero emission propulsion capability. Zero emission commercial vessels are in operation in UK waters.

·        The UK is building clean maritime clusters focused on innovation and infrastructure associated with zero emission propulsion technologies, including bunkering of low or zero emission fuel.

The international shipping industry is currently responsible for about 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. Shipping also carries 95% of UK trade.

Emissions reduction has been a focus of maritime legislation over recent years. Indeed, the team at Marine-i ran a Discovery Room event on this very topic in February 2019. At the event, we heard from some of the leading innovators in this field, covering technologies as diverse as new types of emissions control, exhaust after-treatments, greener fuels, hybrid propulsions, electric boats, hydrogen fuel cells, innovations in emissions monitoring, and the new types of training that will be required to help ensure full compliance.

The International Maritime Organisation’s intention was for zero-emission vessels to be in place by 2030. The fact that the UK Government wants to deliver this target a full five years earlier shows the scale of ambition that they have for this area. It is also a move that has been broadly welcomed by the UK shipping industry and the marine supply chain.

The Government has recognised that, in this field, it is important that the UK establishes itself as a global leader – not a follower. It will by no means be any easy target to meet, but achieving it will create some huge opportunities for our marinetech industries and identify important commercial advantages for our innovative companies – underpinning growth well into the future. It will instil a genuine sense of urgency surrounding innovation in emissions reduction.

In their announcements surrounding the launch, the Government has stressed the need for all participants in the maritime value chain to collaborate and share their knowledge in order to accelerate the pace of innovation. This is something that our team has seen first-hand over the life of the Marine-i project, and is an area in which our marine businesses and marine researchers truly excel.

The Government forecasts that by 2050, the global market for alternative fuel production technologies could reach £11 billion per year. By putting this plan in motion now, it believes that the UK can capture a significant share of that market. They will be consulting on ways in which the uptake of low-carbon fuels in maritime can be encouraged. They will also carry out a call for evidence in 2020, to understand the role that non-tax incentives could play in supporting the transition to zero-emission shipping.

From our experience with the Marine-i project, we know that many of the businesses leading the way on marine innovation need financial assistance stage at an early stage of development in order to prove the effectiveness of new concepts. Often, this cannot be obtained from conventional investors as they do not fully understand the specialised technology or its commercial potential. Innovators can therefore benefit hugely from grant funding to help accelerate the innovation and get it to market more quickly and with a greater chance of success. So it is good to see that the Government’s plan includes a £1 million innovation fund to support clean maritime innovation projects in their early stages.

UK Maritime Minister, Nusrat Ghani, says:

“If we are going to capture the full benefits of this momentous change to zero-emissions, we need to act quickly. Maritime is a global sector, and the international community is already waking up to the real opportunity that zero emission shipping presents. If the UK is going to be a leader in this green revolution, then the time to act is now.”


You can see the full details on the Clean Maritime Plan at the Government website: