The shipping industry will need a rapid change in its fuel consumption habits this decade if it is to stick to its longer-term decarbonisation targets in the run-up to 2050, according to Cockett Group CEO Cem Saral.
Saral was speaking in a panel session at the IBIA Annual Convention 2023 in Dubai on Wednesday.
"Our stated goals reaching out to 2030, 2040 and 2050 distinctly sit on the most important pillar of marine decarbonisation, which is regulation for this decade," Saral said.
"The most important decade for maritime decarbonisation is this decade, and what we do and what we don't do in terms of setting the right path and putting the decarbonisation in the regulatory environment is the key."
Saral pointed out that, while orders of ships capable of running on alternative fuels are growing, the numbers still represent a small fraction of overall bunker demand.
"This year, we have about 59,000 ships in the global fleet, and within that fleet, the number of ships that have the capacity to consume alternative fuels is under 1,200; that's a mere 2%," he said.
"We have an orderbook of about 4,000 ships, and within the orderbook we also have less than 1,200 ships [capable of running on alternative fuels], adding to the existing 1,200 ships.
"So overall, 63,000 ships, and we are looking at less than 2,500 [capable of running on alternative fuels]; that gives us 4%."
The scale of the challenge means a rapid shift will be needed, he argued.
"We need maritime decarbonisation cuts to be global, they have to be rapid, they have to be deep and they have to be sustainable, and we need all of that happening at the same time," Saral said.
But the way that the shipping and bunker industries have coped with significant price moves in recent years suggests that the price of alternative fuels will not be an insurmountable problem, he suggested.
"Last year around the summer, we were trading marine fuel at double [the price] of what we are trading today," Saral said.
"The industry coped with that reasonably well.
"So the problem is not the absolute price itself; the problem is, given a cheaper fuel and an alternative, sustainable fuel, without effective regulation, the path of least resistance will be not using the alternative."