Is House starting on path to carbon-free U.S. maritime industry?

Written by Nick Blenkey
Jones Act waiver row hits Capitol

Image: Architect of the Capitol

The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation today held a hearing on “The Path to a Carbon-Free Maritime Industry: Investments and Innovation.” And, while much of the focus was on bringing panel members up to speed on things like the 2020 sulfur cap and on IMO’s GHG reduction targets, there were also signs that some, at least, in Congress are getting the message that the transition to carbon-free shipping is something the U.S. maritime industry cannot leave to others.

In his opening statement, the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) commended IMO on its initial GHG reduction goal of reducing absolute vessel emissions by at least 50 percent from the 2008 baseline.

“This is a very positive development that stands to improve air quality and reduce human health impacts,” he said “I commend the IMO for taking this initiative and moving ahead, but we can and must do better.

“The world’s largest shipping company has set a goal of zero emissions by 2050, but that should be a goal for the entire industry. If the maritime industry merely reduces vessel emissions by 50 percent over the next 30 years, the impact of such a reduction could be largely offset by an increase in vessel traffic.

“But to meet even the 50 percent reduction target, the global maritime industry must overcome substantial technical, economic, financial, and logistical challenges.

“It is the discussion of those challenges that most interests me, in particular how this scenario could play out here in the United States.

“For example, it remains uncertain what role the Federal government will play in fostering or facilitating the transition to a carbon-free maritime industry for both our coastwise and foreign trades.”

Chairman De Fazio added that “if anything, over the past thirty years the maritime industry has become almost an orphaned child and an afterthought in the Department of Transportation. And were it not for the Navy shipbuilding program, our shipbuilding industry might have entirely lost its capability to build ocean-going vessels.”

“If one thing is clear today it is this: we can no longer afford to sit on our hands and be idle. Collectively, both the Congress and the administration need to get to work today reimagining the maritime industry of tomorrow.”

Subcommittee Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) also commended IMO’s actions and noted that “for ships to serve their planned lifetime and to meet the 2050 emissions reduction goal, vessels coming online after 2030 will need to be either zero emission vessel or very low emission vessels to assure they can operate for their expected commercial life. We should ensure we have the capability to design, build, and operate those vessels in the United States.”

“Investing in innovative new technologies and clean maritime commerce is just one more opportunity to bring the American maritime industry into the 21st century, and one we can’t afford to miss.

“Indeed, the maritime community has risen to meet the challenge, although I must stress, the U.S. can and should do much, much more. Today we will hear from carriers, engineers, and industrial designers about the steps they’ve taken to reduce emissions, the challenges they’ve faced along the way, and what comes next along the path to a carbon-free, but no less efficient, global maritime supply chain.”

Witnesses at today’s hearing were:

  • Mr. Joshua Berger, Governor’s Maritime Sector Lead, State of Washington (Testimony HERE)
  • Mr. John Butler, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Shipping Council, (Testimony HERE)
  • Dr. Lee Kindberg, Director, Environment & Sustainability, Maersk Line/Maersk Agency USA (Testimony HERE)
  • Mr. Peter Bryn, Technical Solutions Manager, North America, ABB Marine & Ports, Testimony HERE
  • Ms. Kathy Metcalf, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chamber of Shipping of America (Testimony HERE)

You can watch the recording of the whole hearing HERE

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