Charting decarbonization in unprecedented times

The COVID-19 crisis has transformed the world, our behaviour and the maritime industry in a way that is unprecedented in modern history.

When we launched the first Maritime Forecast to 2050, it was hard to imagine a situation like we find ourselves in in 2020. For shipping, the pandemic has created a level of uncertainty in terms of energy use, ability to trade, and the safety of the assets and people working in our industry that could have long-lasting effects on the whole shipping sector.

Even in the face of the massive challenges brought on us by the virus, we can see that the maritime industry is still incredibly resilient. It is adapting, working to make the best of the situation, and innovating to keep delivering. The last few months have turbocharged the ongoing shift towards the wider use of data and models and remote services in shipping and this will surely result in overall gains in efficiency and productivity.

But even so, the ongoing challenge for this generation is finding a pathway towards decarbonization. There is still room for vessels to improve their efficiency, both operationally and in the technology onboard. But meeting this goal requires a new cooperative approach, and will require the systemic integration of technologies, fuels, and operational processes, within both vessels and the industry as a whole.

As we previously emphasized in the first Maritime Forecast publication, the biggest factor in decarbonization is the fuels that we use – and the fuel picture for shipping is becoming ever more complicated. Not only is the number of potential fuels expanding, but the availability, prices and policy measures that could enable or negatively impact each choice make the fuel decision much more difficult. Decarbonization is also becoming a motivating factor for stakeholders such as banks, investors, and customers further up in the supply chain, up to the end consumer – and they are now starting to act on it.

This complexity means that exploring a wide range of scenarios is essential. Helping to manage the risks when deciding on the ships we build and operate today lies at the core of the scenariobased modelling approach that we advocate in the Maritime Forecast.

Over the past year, the importance of certainty when it comes to making newbuilding decisions has become even more apparent. The significant boost in the uptake of LNG as fuel that has come with the finalization of the IGF code and the introduction of the global sulfur cap, shows that regulatory certainty is a critical factor that may drive the development and implementation of alternative fuels in the future.

With our Maritime Forecast, we are working to show that with foresight and a clear vision there can be a path through complexity. Because even in these extraordinary times, we must make practical and sound decisions today but still look ahead and find the innovations that will fuel our journey forward.


- Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen

CEO, DNV GL - Maritime