Shipping companies are getting ready for a multi-fuel future and the need to prepare for fleets operating on three or more fuel families, according to a survey by the Global Maritime Forum.

"The most common mix by 2050, represented by 45 percent of respondents, is a fleet concurrently running vessels on fuel oil/biodiesel, methane, methanol, and ammonia — a step-change in fuel diversity," says the survey conducted in association with the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping with analytical support by McKinsey & Company.

"As the shipping industry is in a period of experimentation and exploration to understand the implications of adopting different green fuels, surveys like this play a crucial role to inform the industry and public, and support shipping’s transition to a zero-emissions future," says Lynn Loo, CEO, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation.

Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping adds: “The industry will need to think strategically about how to operate multi-fuel fleets and green fuels must be introduced in a safe and cost-efficient manner to make them the preferred alternative to current petroleum products."

Other findings from the survey suggest that internal combustion engines will remain the preferred technology through 2050, and that the speed of shipping industry’s adoption of alternative fuels will be a function of the cost gap with fossil fuels and the degree of availability of green alternatives at ports worldwide.

"Ports and bunker suppliers might prioritise the availability of individual fuels in the short term. But in the longer-term, ports that wish to attract the greatest possible number of future vessels should prepare for the need to offer multiple fuel types."

The single most important factor in fuel choice will likely be the rate of decarbonisation required by regulators. Policymakers and regulators can help close the cost gap between green fuels and fossil fuels and create a “level playing field” for all shipping companies to accelerate their adoption of green fuels.

"To reach a zero-emissions future, the industry needs a more ambitious regulatory framework with clear reduction targets and supporting policies to close the cost gap between green fuels and the fossil fuels that currently power the global fleet," says Johannah Christensen, CEO, Global Maritime Forum. "The sooner there is clarity about targets and policies, and the sooner these come into effect, the easier it will be for companies to develop a view on how to meet the goals. The role of regulators will be crucial in this process, in particular the outcome of the ongoing negotiations at the IMO."

The companies surveyed represent roughly 20 percent of the world’s total fleet capacity of container ships, tankers, dry bulkers, gas carriers, car carriers, cruise ships, tugs and offshore vessels.

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