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New £20m Competition Aims to Chart a Greener Future for UK Shipping

New Department for Transport initiative will support development of zero emission vessels and infrastructure that can propel decarbonisation of shipping

The government has called on shipbuilders, shipping firms, ports, scientists, and academics to submit proposals to a new competition for innovative technologies that can chart a greener future for the UK’s shipping sector.

The Department for Transport said this morning the £20m green shipping competition would support trials of projects that could bring the sector closer to net zero emissions, such as hydrogen powered vessels and electric charge point port infrastructure.

It urged players from across the maritime sector to collaborate with scientists and academics on proposals for the competition, noting that trials would allow companies to test emerging green technologies “with a view to them being developed commercially if proven to be successful”.

Maritime Minister Robert Courts said the competition launch marked a “turning point” for the UK maritime sector. “It’s an opportunity for businesses to develop the technologies of the future, not only protecting our environment but driving economic growth,” he said. “I urge this country’s best thinkers to put their green ideas forward and help us deliver a better, cleaner maritime sector.”

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps emphasised how the shipping sector’s net zero transition could generate jobs across the UK, revitalise coastal communities, and help steer the nation closer to its 2050 net zero target.

“We have a proud shipbuilding history, and together with industry, I am determined to build on that as we look to develop the innovations of the future and meet our net zero target,” he said. “We are revolutionising maritime technology, and from electric boats to hydrogen ports, we will change the way this country sails forever, and bring jobs and prosperity to the UK.”

The UK has committed to bringing its domestic maritime emissions to net zero by 2050, alongside all other areas of the economy, however it is under growing pressure from green groups and its climate advisors the Climate Change Committee to set a global precedent and expand the scope of its climate targets to formally include emissions generated by international shipping and aviation.

The government published details of the green shipping competition as it revealed it was funding two major studies focused on how government and industry can work together to propel different segments of the maritime sector towards net zero emissions.

The first study, to produced by the Carbon Trust and due to be published in late Spring, will focus on the recreational craft sector and will explore how government and industry can work together to boost supply and demand for greener leisure boats and sports vessels, it said. The recreational craft sector is worth almost £1.6bn in annual exports and employs roughly 40,000 people, according to the government.

“The recreational craft sector encompasses a wide range of vessel types and there are unique challenges that need to be overcome,” said Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay. “A combination of targeted innovation support, cross-industry collaboration and regulatory and financial intervention will be needed to accelerate the development and uptake of low carbon technologies.”

Meanwhile, a separate study being produced by the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Workboat Association at the behest of the government will explore how all operational and maintenance vessels working in the North Sea offshore wind sector could be brought to zero emissions by 2025, the DfT said.

ORE Catapult chief executive Andrew Jamieson said the report would “make clear” that wind farm, vessel, and port operators in the North Sea were “united” in their desire to decarbonise their activity. “We are confident that the UK supply chain has the knowledge, endeavour and innovation to support this ambition, whilst creating jobs and growth in coastal communities and providing a springboard for the UK to lead the clean maritime industry of the future,” he said.

The government is expected to set out more details about how it plans to decarbonise all modes of transport in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which is scheduled to be published this Spring.