When it comes to launching the energy transition, maritime policy is one of the key battlegrounds. But many ports, aware of their ecological and economic vulnerability, have committed to sustainable development strategies. According to the latest research, sea levels will rise considerably (from 1.1 to 2 metres, on average) by 2100, putting about 14 per cent of the world’s major maritime ports at risk of coastal flooding and erosion. Ports in France, including 66 that are used for maritime trade, are also under threat, and will have to adapt their infrastructure. Maritime transport accounts for about 80 per cent of global merchandise trade by volume.
Shipping is responsible for three per cent of global CO2 emissions, which have increased 32 per cent over the past 20 years. If nothing is done, shipping emissions could climb to 17 per cent of global emissions by 2050. Enter the “ports of the future.” Ports govern globalized economic activity and are true “energy hubs,” bringing together all kinds of transport (maritime, land-based, waterway and aeronautic). Now, they’re aiming to cut back on real estate, be more respectful of the environment and better integrated into cities, particularly through the concept of “urban ports.” Value non-profit news? Give a tax-deductible donation today.
Freedom from oil At least US$1 trillion will have to be invested between 2030 and 2050 to reduce shipping’s carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2050. As of last year, oil-derived fuels accounted for 95 per cent energy consumption in transportation. Meanwhile, maritime traffic is predicted to increase by 35 to 40 per cent over the same period. Ports and their environment. The case of Antwerp. (Université Bretagne Sud/YouTube, July 12, 2019). This dependence on hydrocarbons also represents an economic vulnerability for the maritime shipping sector due to new environmental standards.
In France, liquid bulk transport has been in decline since 2009 (decreasing three per cent on average since 2016), despite a slight uptick in 2017 (2.1 per cent). Fuel shipping (50 per cent of shipping by weight in major maritime ports) has also decreased by 25 per cent since 2008. The golden age of oil cannot will not hold for much longer, given its environmental impact and increasing scarcity. As the consumption of hydrocarbons and coal drops, we should also see a steady decrease in fuel shipping.
The French government’s National Low-Carbon Strategy (“Stratégie nationale bas carbone,” or SNBC) aims to reduce emissions from the industrial sector by 35 per cent by 2030 and 81 per cent by 2050. This will mean a nearly complete decarbonization of maritime transport, creating a real technological challenge for the sector. This story is part of Oceans 21 Our series on the global ocean opened with five in-depth profiles.
Look out for new articles on the state of our oceans in the lead up to the UN’s next climate conference, COP26. The series is brought to you by The Conversation’s international network. To meet these targets, ports are working to become carbon-neutral by redesigning their logistical operations (flow management) and means of production (value creation), as part of an industrial reconversion approach. They’re banking on new environmental technologies to generate a double dividend, both environmental and economic. Three approaches could be used to achieve these goals: energy efficiency, renewable energy production and industrial ecology.
Building the ships of tomorrow A 2021 study by the Getting to Zero coalition found that zero-carbon fuels had to represent at least five per cent of the fuel mix by 2030 for international shipping to comply with the Paris Agreement. Around 100,000 commercial vessels will be affected by this energy transition, according to GTT, a company specializing in the transportation and storage of liquefied natural gas (LNG). In this vein, an ambitious environmental certification program, Green Marine Europe, launched in 2020 in order to create the European maritime industry of tomorrow.
Read more: How shipping ports can become more sustainable New fuels with smaller carbon footprints, such as liquefied natural gas, ammonia and ethanol, and the accelerated adoption of alternative propulsion systems will be needed for the sector to become greener. In 2020, Bordeaux’s port was fitted out with an LNG-powered dredger, which requires less energy and is more environmentally friendly, thanks to its water injection-dredging mechanism.
(Delphine Trentacosta), Author provided Hydrogen fuel (initially “grey,” now increasingly “green”) represents another viable alternative in the medium-term for fleets subjected to heavy rotation. Although the project is currently in its early stages (involving small vessels of 60-80 seats), more ambitious initiatives have been launched, such as the Hydrotug boat in construction for the port of Antwerp. The arrival of steam-powered engines put an end to the use of large wind-propelled clippers in the late 1800s. But technologies that harness the wind could make a major comeback, with ships using sails and kites to reduce fuel use.