At the COP26 (26th Conference of the Parties) annual UN Global Climate Summit held in Glasgow in November 2021, more than 20 nations signed up to the Clydebank Declaration to establish Green Corridors

Green corridors are intended to accelerate shipping’s decarbonisation by providing pilot-scheme demonstrations of the feasibility of using zero-emission technologies. They are expected to be ‘coalitions of the willing’ where ocean carriers, fuel suppliers, port authorities and local policymakers work together to provide the necessary vessels, fuel supply infrastructure, port facilities and financial incentives to support zero-emission shipping.

No exact details of how this might work in practice have yet been published – although the Ports of Los Angeles and Shanghai have promised to unveil details of their interconnecting green corridor, which they claim will be the world’s first, by the end of this year. Normal shipping operations by vessels using conventional marine fuels will continue to operate alongside the new green corridors, but presumably without the same financial incentives and not needing to make use of the alternative fuel supply chains and extra port facilities that will be put in place at both end ports to facilitate zero-emission operations.

An initial six corridors are targeted to be in place by 2025 as part of the Declaration. This is in order to support and accelerate the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) initial target of at least a 50% reduction of shipping’s overall GHG emissions (from 2008levels) by 2050.

Since COP26, a number of regions and port pairs have declared an interest in becoming one of the first green corridors, including the port connection of Singapore – Rotterdam, Shanghai – Los Angeles, the Australia – Japan iron ore trade, as well as regional projects covering the EU, Chile and intra-Asia.

In late May this year, classification society Lloyd’s Register (LR) and partners announced a plan to create a Green Corridor Cluster of routes based out of Singapore, serving the intra-Asian and wider container trades.

LR’s partners in the venture, dubbed The Silk Alliance, include containership operators Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Pacific International Lines (PIL), Wan Hai Lines, X-Press Feeders and Yang Ming; shipyard Keppel O&M; bunker logistical supplier Singfar International; engine manufacturer Wärtsilä; ship manager Wilhelmsen Ship Management; and financial institutions the Asian Development Bank and ING.

In a statement announcing the launch of the Alliance, it was said that cooperation among the founding partners would “send an aggregated demand signal for other stakeholders such as fuel providers, port operators and governments to support the Green Corridor Cluster.”

Lloyd’s Register operates a Maritime Decarbonisation Hub that has devised a First Mover Framework to offer support to ship operators embarking on a fuel transition strategy. It is playing a lead role in coordinating The Silk Alliance, so-called as a nod to the maritime section of the historic Silk Road that linked Southeast Asia to China, the Indian subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula, which it says expanded over the course of centuries “to incorporate new technologies and cultures”.

Goh Chung Hun, General Manager – Fleet at Singapore-based PIL, said, “PIL is happy to be a member of The Silk Alliance, as we are a key proponent of the multi-stakeholder collective approach to developing an effective and feasible decarbonisation strategy for the shipping industry. We hope that through our participation in The Silk Alliance, we can demonstrate our commitment to decarbonising our fleet, and at the same time working with other stakeholders to establish regional green corridors for feeder shipping utilising low carbon fuel or technology.”

Aziz Merchant, Executive Director of Keppel Marine and Deepwater Technology, the technology arm of Singapore-based Keppel O&M, added, “As the shipyard partner in The Silk Alliance, Keppel O&M is pleased to contribute its deep engineering expertise in vessel design and operations, as well as extensive experience in vessel upgrading, which can help shipowners and managers improve the energy efficiency and carbon intensity of their fleets and operations. Keppel O&M is also working on end-to-end solutions for the development and adoption of greener marine fuels, which will further support The Silk Alliance in achieving its objectives.”

The Silk Alliance represents owners of over 80% of the world’s tonnage. In late June, they announced a plan to drive forward maritime decarbonisation with the creation of a series of Clean Energy Marine (CEM) Hubs that would unite efforts by shipping companies, ports and energy firms. Expected to be officially launched in September 2022 at a meeting of Energy ministers from 29 different countries, the idea is to establish a global platform of CEM Hubs that would “develop stronger cross-sector collaborations that link the energy sector with the maritime value chain, enabling policy makers and industry stakeholders to quickly unlock clean energy deployment.”

Singapore would clearly be at the forefront of such a movement, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) having established a ‘Maritime Singapore Green Initiative’ as far back as 2011, regularly enhancing it ever since. Latest modifications include a 30% reduction in port dues for vessels burning zero carbon fuels, effective from May 2022, as well as a 25% reduction for vessels burning low-carbon fuels including LNG and biofuel (>20%) blends.

In July, MPA and the Port of Rotterdam Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish what they said would be the world’s longest ‘Green and Digital Corridor’ to enable low and zero carbon shipping, with the first sustainable vessels sailing on the route by 2027. These port authorities will work with the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero-Carbon Shipping as action partners, as well as other industry partners across the supply chain, including BP, CMA CGM, Digital Container Shipping Association, Maersk, MSC, Ocean Network Express, PSA International, and Shell for a start. This will enable the project to raise investment confidence, attract green financing, and kickstart joint bunkering pilots and trials for digitalisation and the use of low- and zero carbon fuels along the route.

MPA has also drawn up a ‘Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint: Working Towards 2050’, as well as established a Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) in Singapore in August 2021. Fellow GCMD investors now include BHP, Boston Consulting Group, bp, BW, Chevron, DNV Foundation, Eastern Pacific Shipping, ICS, ONE and Sembcorp Marine.

In April, six companies including liner giant Maersk signed an MoU on setting up Asia’s first synthetic methanol plant in Singapore, while in June, Shell agreed on a future fuelling agreement with CMA CGM to supply LNG out of the southeast Asia city state, viewing it as a credible pathway to liquefied biomethane and e-methane, “both having the potential of being net zero”.

Another Singapore-based project to advance zero-emission shipping is the so-called Castor Initiative to develop an ammonia-fuelled tanker. Partners include class society Lloyd’s Register, shipyard Samsung Heavy Industries, ammonia supplier Yara International, engine manufacturer MAN Energy Solutions, shipowner MISC Berhad and the MPA, as well as bunker hub Jurong Port. Their plan is to develop a prototype tanker vessel that would be based – and refuelled – in Singapore, to be operated by Malaysian carrier MISC.

Jurong Port’s CEO, Mr Ooi Boon Hoe, commented, “Being the operator of the busiest bunkering terminal in the world’s largest bunkering port today, Jurong Port is keen to facilitate the adoption of such future marine fuels, including ammonia, by providing suitable supporting bunkering infrastructure. We look forward to contributing to the success of The Castor Initiative and reinforcing Singapore as the world’s leading bunkering hub.”

Singapore’s main port, PSA Singapore, has a number of key decarbonisation projects of its own as part of its commitment to achieve a 50% reduction in absolute GHG emissions (from 2019 levels) by 2030, and net zero GHG emissions by 2050. These projects include the gradual adoption of LNG prime movers to haul containers, to replace conventional diesel-powered units, as well as a proof-of-concept R&D project to eventually employ hydrogen fuel cell prime movers. The next-generation Tuas mega-port currently under development will also set new standards in sustainability.

In a recent briefing on “The voyage to net zero: what role can ports play?”, global law firm HFW wrote that PSA’s approach to achieving decarbonisation targets “combines (i) improving efficiencies to reduce energy consumption and (ii) switching to less-carbon intensive sources of energy, including solar power. Digitalisation is a key part of PSA’s strategy, enabling better allocation of resources and improving efficiencies such as reducing waiting and idling times for vessels and trucks by scheduling ‘just in time’ berthing and container pick up and drop off.”

The new port at Tuas, scheduled to be fully operational in the 2040s, “will have green operations by design,” HFW added. The port will be fully automated, terminal equipment will be electric, and operations will be consolidated meaning a reduction in inter-terminal road haulage between the current city and Pasir Panjang Terminals, HFW pointed out.

Regional CEO Southeast Asia Ong Kim Pong said, “PSA Singapore’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship is a strong testament to the dedication of our employees, partners and stakeholders in striving for sustainable change. PSA has embedded sustainability across every corner of our business, and we will collaborate with our customers and partners in developing solutions to achieve our net zero carbon strategies. PSA will continue to be a driving force in reimagining a resilient and sustainable global supply chain ecosystem.”

Whereas the commitment set out in the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015 aimed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees is far from being achieved, more efforts and initiatives are underway. The decade out to 2030 will be crucial, with every nation needing to play their part in concerted efforts towards achieving a better climactic future for the planet!

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