Green shipping corridors are the route to greener, cleaner shipping – and both cruise and other maritime segments stand to benefit. Green shipping corridors link ports that support zero-emission fuels and they are showing great potential as a way to accelerate maritime decarbonisation. Here are five important facts for those who are ready to collaborate, build ecosystems and gain some important first-mover advantages.
In order to meet decarbonisation targets, shipping needs to start using sustainable fuels. But how can ship owners and operators secure sustainable fuels such as green methanol, green ammonia and green hydrogen?
One possible answer? Green shipping corridors.
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What is a green shipping corridor?
A green shipping corridor is a route that links ports that support zero-emissions solutions. Green corridors will have economic, logistical, and political conditions that are favourable to zero-emission shipping, reducing risk and creating incentives for early adopters of clean fuel.
At COP26 in 2021, 22 governments signed the Clydebank Declaration. This signalled their support for establishing green corridors to speed up the decarbonisation of the maritime industry. The signatories committed to establishing six green corridors by 2025, with the goal to accelerate the development of fuels, infrastructure, legislation, and regulation. Many more routes should follow by 2030.
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Here are five facts about green shipping corridors – and what they might mean for you.
1. Zero-emission fuel will be easily available along the route
Above all else, ship owners and operators need to be confident that clean fuel will be available on the routes they operate. The cruise industry has already been an early adopter and front runner when it comes to sustainable power, with 35% of the global capacity of cruise ships equipped with shore power connections.
Green shipping corridors will offer alternative fuel options, creating an ecosystem of fuel producers and consumers. Fuel flexible engines are already available, and switching to greener fuels can be a gradual process. Want to be prepared to access first mover benefits on green shipping corridors? Invest in a dual-fuel engine that is future-fuel ready.
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Fuel providers will be integral to green corridors because the choice of route is firmly tied to the ability to secure a reliable supply of a specific fuel. The hope is that fuel providers will produce fuel that is secured for each corridor. This will increase the amount of fuel available to operators on these routes.
2. Collaboration will play a central role in green shipping corridors
To maximise the impact of green shipping corridors, governments, ship owners and operators, technology companies and fuel providers need to form an ecosystem. This will take careful coordination but there will be benefits for all players. Working together will help scale up efforts effectively – avoiding the chicken and egg problem of whether it is ship owners or infrastructure owners who should invest in future fuels first.
Green shipping corridors should be public-private partnerships by design. Governments at both ends of the corridor must work together to put regulations and incentives in place that support and encourage zero-emission shipping activity.
Collaboration between government and industry will reduce risk and establish the right conditions to encourage first movers. One great ongoing example of collaboration is how the Port of Seattle is actively looking for partners to define and develop a green corridor between Seattle and Alaska, which will be the first global green corridor to include cruise ships.
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3. Different maritime green corridors will support different fuels
Green shipping corridors are a particularly effective way to tackle decarbonisation because they focus on the routes rather than the fuels themselves. Once the route is determined the choice of fuel is clearer: for example, ammonia will be the best choice on some routes, while methanol will be more attractive elsewhere.
Routes proposed so far include:
• The Alaska–British Columbia–Washington cruise route: this route was announced by a group of first movers in 2022, with the commitment to explore the feasibility of establishing a green corridor for cruise vessels. With Alaska hosting more than 600 cruise sailings a year, it shows great promise and is a powerful example of how competing companies can work together for a common good. Hydrogen is likely to play an important role in fuelling this green shipping corridor.
• The Asia–Europe container route: proposed because it is the single biggest source of maritime greenhouse gas emissions as well as being a good fit in terms of potential policy support. Freight along this route tends to be of a high value, meaning the extra costs of green shipping might be easier to swallow. The most advanced zero-emission fuel option for this route is methanol, though ammonia could have long-term cost advantages.
• The Australia–Japan iron ore route: a simple stakeholder environment and strong political collaboration makes this a leading contender for a maritime green corridor. Ninety per cent of the Australian ore exported to Japan is mined by companies with net-zero commitments, so the demand is there. This route is likely to focus on ammonia, so a realistic timeframe would be when the first ammonia-capable engines hit the market in 2025.
• The northeast Asia–US car carrier route: this route is already showing great promise, with shipping companies and cargo owners demonstrating a willingness to be leaders in the transition. However, the picture here is complex as vessels are often diverted to other markets, making planning a corridor more challenging. Green ammonia is expected to be the future fuel with the greatest cost advantages for this green shipping corridor. However, the situation could change as technology develops.
• The Portugal–Brazil route: a green shipping corridor connecting Portuguese-speaking nations, with a strong focus on green hydrogen. Although this transatlantic route may not be relevant to cruise vessels, its establishment will provide cruise ships and other vessels with access to green energy when calling at ports along the route.
For more green corridor examples, check out Mission Innovation’s up-to-date tracker, which also shows the fuel and vessel segment for each route.
4. Fuels could be subsidised along green shipping corridors
There is no escaping the fact that future fuels are going to be more expensive than current fossil-based options. Governments can do their bit to mitigate this issue by subsidising future fuels in the early stages of green corridors to encourage ship owners and operators to adopt them.
The EU will be including shipping in their emissions trading system from 2024. The tax that will be raised offers real potential to accelerate maritime decarbonisation through investments in green corridors and future fuel subsidies.
5. Regional initiatives are already underway
While full-scale green shipping corridors are not yet a reality, early initiatives are leading the way towards a cleaner and more sustainable future for shipping. One of these is the Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea initiative, or ZEEDS for short. ZEEDS proposes regional chains of clean energy hubs – a so-called ‘string of pearls’ – to supply vessels with fuel. These energy hubs work as the first building blocks for green corridors. ZEEDS is the result of a partnership between Wärtsilä and five other companies.
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As part of the ZEEDS initiative, Wärtsilä is helping develop a pioneering new tanker vessel that will transport and run on green ammonia. Read more about the MS Green Ammonia.
A concrete example of the ZEEDS concept in practice is a project to develop the world’s first commercially viable green ammonia ecosystem in Norway. In this project, wind power is used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, which is then turned into green ammonia.
The ammonia will be produced in the municipality of Berlevåg in the far north of the country and will power vessels traveling around the Norwegian coast and in the Arctic. It will also be used for off-grid power production in the Svalbard archipelago.
Gain first-mover benefits today
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Maritime green corridors will help create conditions where ship owners and operators can move to zero-carbon fuel with confidence. Whether you’re interested in collaborating to develop a green corridor or you’re aiming to future-proof your vessels, there are steps you can already take to help make green shipping corridors a reality.
Green shipping corridors will secure clean fuel along your route and help you meet your sustainability targets – and with fuel-flexible engines the technology is already available to gain first-mover benefits today.