UK Government eyes onshore power, green bunkering in ‘technology neutral’ sustainability drive

Panama registered container ship MSC Pilar at berth at Liverpool2 - a £400 million deep-water container terminal at the Port of Liverpool, taken on a clear, sunny day

The ports of the United Kingdom could soon receiving investment funding on zero-emission bunkering and onshore power in the UK Government’s newly-launched funding competition.

The UK Government announced a £20 million ($27.75 million) Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) in March 2021 to develop zero-emission vessels and clean port infrastructure.

The fund, launched by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Innovate UK, is part of the UK Government’s Build Back Greener initiative, pegging port communities as a key stakeholder in sustainable industries such as offshore wind.

In an interview with PTI, the DfT said the UK Government will be “technology neutral” in selection for green investments as part of the fund.

“The Government is technology neutral, and it would be premature to speculate precisely which technologies might and might not be able to deliver our long-term ambitions,” the DfT said.

The department continued that the CMDC will support projects focusing on shoreside low and zero-carbon bunkering of renewable fuels, vehicle charging infrastructure, shoreside power, and port-side renewable energy generation to supply vessels.

“It also supports projects concerning zero emission shore-side power supply to vessels, including grid or renewable energy supply, port-side production of fuels such as hydrogen, methanol and ammonia, and zero emission infrastructure, including stationary assets for freight handling and port operations,” the department said.

‘Greater clarity’ needed on international fuel transition

The DfT told PTI the UK ports are saying “loud and clear” from the sector for greater clarity on the nature of the fuel transition that international shipping will undergo to reach zero-emission shipping by 2050.

“The Department is talking regularly with our Ports about the challenges, and opportunities the transition to net zero presents, and a message we hear repeated loud and clear from the sector is the need for greater clarity on the nature of the fuel transition that international shipping will undergo in the next thirty years,” the department said.

“Making the right long term investment decisions is challenging in a rapidly changing industry, and understandably no one wants to invest heavily in supplying a fuel that doesn’t have a well developed market,” the department added.

The Department noted that going forward it will work with industry to de-risk technology investments through drives like the CMDC and through identification of ‘no-regret’ infrastructure investments like onshore power.

The launch of the competition comes as major shipping provider Hapag-Lloyd said in April the climate emergency will continue to be the biggest shipping industry challenge in the years ahead.

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