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Argus Media: Korea unveils roadmap for net zero in shipping by 2050

23 Feb 2023

South Korea’s maritime ministry (Mof) has announced its strategy to decarbonise the shipping sector by 2050, with a focus on hastening the transition to what it terms as “eco-friendly” vessels.

The roadmap is a pre-emptive response to stricter decarbonisation regulations by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the international community, including Europe, Mof said on 14 February.

Mof expects the IMO in July to raise its international maritime carbon emission reduction target from 50pc to 100pc by 2050, in addition to more economic regulatory measures such as a carbon levy system. The 80th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee will be held over 3-7 July, and is expected to adopt the revised IMO Strategy for Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, according to the IMO.

Mof sees “significant ripple effects” stemming from the tighter regulations on the shipping industry, since charging a certain amount for each tonne of carbon emitted will directly raise transportation costs for shipping firms. This will consequently make it “inevitable” for firms to switch to carbon-neutral fuels in order to stay competitive.

The Mof has consequently laid out its four-point strategy to achieve carbon neutrality in the shipping sector by 2050, in what it describes as a first in Asia.

Going green with support

The country will first convert ships owned by national shipping companies into ships that use eco-friendly fuels.

The roadmap has earmarked 867 outward-bound domestic vessels weighing 5,000 gross tonnes or more, which are subject to international regulations such as those set by the IMO, for conversion to eco-friendly ships. South Korea also aims to convert 118 eco-friendly ships by 2030, including the preferential conversion of 60pc of its liner service in Europe and the Americas, in response to the EU’s regional regulations and introduction of its own carbon levy system.

South Korea aims to eventually replace all outward-bound domestic vessels with 100pc eco-friendly ships by 2050.

When building new ships, South Korea is planning to have dual-fuel engines that can utilise eco-friendly fuels such as e-methanol and LNG by 2030, and also aims to promote ammonia and hydrogen vessels.

These goals are in line with the previous “2030 Green Ship-K Promotion Strategy” that South Korea outlined in December 2020. The 2030 plan aimed to convert 15pc of South Korean-flagged ships, or 528 vessels out of 3,542, into greener ones. The government and public corporations are also required to build green vessels when replacing their old vessels.

Upon the successful implementation of the 2030 strategy, Mof forecasts that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2050 will be at 5.93mn t or half of the 11.81mn t in 2017. In the nearer term, Mof sees its strategy reducing particulate matter by 3,314t and GHG emissions by 4mn t by around 2030.

Secondly, the government will also provide support to encourage timely investment in the transition to eco-friendly fleets. The cost increase for domestic shipping lines is estimated at about 1.8 trillion South Korean won ($1.38bn) by 2030, as construction expenses rise because of the installation of expensive engines and fuel tanks for conversion to eco-friendly fuel ships. 

This is up by about 31pc compared to the cost of constructing conventional ships. Support from the government, public institutions, and the financial sector will be expanded so shipping firms “do not hesitate” to invest in building or converting eco-friendly ships, Mof said.

Public funds worth up to W4.5 trillion will be raised to provide loans through the financial sector, in addition to interest rate cuts for loans when building and operating eco-friendly ships. Measures to stimulate private ship investment will be prepared by the end of this year, such as issuing green bonds to support financing for shipbuilding.

A new fund worth up to W1 trillion will also be established to support eco-friendly vessel conversion in small- and medium-sized shipping companies.

Making way for future fuels

The third area of focus under the roadmap is for South Korea to develop eco-friendly technology and expand infrastructure for future fuels.

South Korea’s trade and industry ministry (Motie) and Mof will jointly promote the development of technologies for eco-friendly vessels in a project over 2022-31, with an investment of W254bn. The two ministries will also study integrated biofuel technology over 2023-24 to secure future fuel production technologies for ships, and will also consider the expansion of floating carbon-free fuel infrastructure.

The country will also expand port facilities to prepare for fuels such as e-methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen. Legislation through the entire supply chain from production to storage to the sale and supply of bunker fuel will also be reviewed and improved.

Lastly, South Korea will establish carbon-free shipping routes and foster international co-operation. The country and the US launched a feasibility study in January to build a green shipping corridor between South Korea’s Busan and the US, according to Mof. Domestic shipowner Hyundai Merchant Marine recently ordered nine methanol-fuelled vessels, with potential plans to use the aforementioned shipping corridor.

Public and private sector investment in eco-friendly shipbuilding is expected to hit W8 trillion by 2030 and W71 trillion by 2050, according to Mof.

South Korea expects this transition to be “a new national growth engine in the era of carbon neutrality”, generating an economic value of W17 trillion by 2030, and W158 trillion by 2050.

By Tng Yong Li


Photo credit and source: Argus Media
Published: 23 February, 2023

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