Thursday 24 September 2020 8:00 am

Green Britannia can rule the waves — with the right support

Bob Sanguinetti is chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping.

The coronavirus has had a major impact on a range of industries, including shipping. We have seen factories in parts of the world slow down and supply chains have been severely impacted. 

But today, on the UN’s World Maritime Day which is focused on sustainable shipping, as we look to reset and recover from the pandemic it is vital that the shipping industry doesn’t lose sight of its environmental responsibilities. We must use the opportunity in front of us to lay the foundations for a green recovery, starting right here in the UK.

Read more: Decarbonisation of shipping to cost over $1 trillion

We know shipping contributes about two per cent of global greenhouse gases, and although there has been huge progress in reducing emissions across the sector more needs to be done.

Innovation is going to be at the heart of tackling climate change. There is a global innovation race with countries competing to develop and deliver green tech to the world’s shipping fleet. As a proud maritime nation with expertise across the country, I believe the UK should be leading the way in developing the technologies of tomorrow.

We have centres of excellence with some of the greatest minds in the world. Places like the High Value Manufacturing Catapult in Sheffield and the Energy Systems Catapult in Birmingham, as well as Universities like Strathclyde which is co-leading a new national centre for maritime innovation and technology. Maritime Research and Innovation, or MaRI-UK, recently announced the first recipients of funding to develop clean maritime technology. Although there is a long way to go, this is an important step in the right direction.  

Read more: All at sea: To save the maritime sector from a no-deal Brexit we must extend Article 50

As we look to the future, we have an opportunity to make the Covid-19 recovery a green recovery and strategically invest in technologies which can be sold across the world, creating new high-value jobs. The upcoming Spending Review provides the government with the opportunity to invest in an industry which must reduce its carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. 

The UK maritime sector is worth £40bn a year, and with the global blue economy set to be worth over £2 trillion by 2030, if we are to get a lion’s share of that business, we need innovation and the right environment set by the government. That is why in our Spending Review bid, the maritime sector is asking the government to invest £1bn to develop green technology for cleaner ships. A new report believes that 75,000 jobs could be created and will set the UK on a course to meet its legal net-zero maritime obligations. But we need government support, just like the auto and aero sectors have received.

The UK government has committed to reaching net-zero by 2050 and last year they launched the Clean Maritime Plan. It requires all-new ships trading in UK waters, both international and domestic, to be designed with zero-emission capable technologies. The targets have been set and they are challenging. But with the right focus, the right strategic plan, and the right funding from the Spending Review in the next few years, I hope to see the UK take advantage of its place in the maritime world and lead the charge to create the technologies needed to decarbonise the global shipping industry.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.