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Major new report identifies pathways to unlocking £75bn financing needed for UK shipping’s energy transition

Posted on: 1 December 2022

Recommendations on priority areas of focus are intended to contribute to the next iteration of the UK government’s Clean Maritime Plan:

  • Specific sectors of the UK maritime sector such as ferries, offshore service vessels and the offshore wind market present an opportunity for priority action and targeted measures
  • New sources of capital will be required to fund the industry’s decarbonisation transition
  • Institutional investors could be a viable source of funding with the appropriate government support
  • Specific funding mechanisms (illustrated through case studies) can help to overcome the barriers to investment

A report produced by Marine Capital Ltd, with the support of UMAS and Lloyd’s Register (LR), estimates that approximately £75bn of investment over the coming three decades will be required for the UK’s domestic maritime sector to transition to net zero. Attracting new sources of capital will be key to the industry’s energy transition. The report, “UK Domestic Shipping: Mobilising Investment in Net Zero”, identifies funding mechanisms that can be applied immediately to unlock untapped investment capital to finance this transition, without waiting for the introduction of carbon pricing or the selection of a ‘winning’ zero emission fuel solution.

The report presents the most comprehensive study to-date of the UK domestic maritime sector, and its findings and recommendations are intended to contribute significantly to the next iteration of the UK government’s Clean Maritime Plan.

The complexity of the UK’s domestic maritime sector, with its diverse range of stakeholders, vessels and ports presents significant challenges to achieving net zero. The Study identifies the vessels which comprise the UK domestic and short-sea shipping fleets and provides a profile of these fleets, including a breakdown of emissions by different vessel types. This analysis shows that the largest source of emissions come from a relatively small subsector of vessels, providing the potential for targeted measures.

Both investment and clear, coordinated policy support will be required to overcome the various barriers that currently hinder the sector’s decarbonisation transition. These barriers include uncertainty regarding future demand for and supply of clean fuels, lack of clarity over the evolution of the policy and regulatory environment and limited access to funding by many stakeholders. Identifying areas of priority will be key to the sector’s successful navigation of the net zero pathway over the coming two decades.

Institutional investors, who together represent over $80 trillion in assets, could be a viable source of funding. However, government support will be needed to help them overcome some of the hurdles currently impeding their participation.

Through the use of case studies, the report considers how institutional capital can be unlocked at scale through different types of funding mechanisms and the appropriate supporting government policy. The case studies highlight particular areas which are appropriate for priority attention. Ferries and Ro-Ro vessels, which account for 10% of vessels but 50% of emissions from the domestic and short sea fleets are one such area, as are offshore service vessels. Given the UK’s planned expansion in offshore wind projects, vessels which service this market are also good candidates for targeted measures.

In assessing the appropriate measures and structures that could be applied to the UK’s domestic maritime sector, the report also considers the lessons that can be learned from other comparative regimes, including initiatives such as Green Corridors.

Although decarbonisation undoubtedly presents many challenges for the industry, it also opens up the potential for the UK to build on its core competences and increases the opportunities for growth throughout the UK’s maritime supply chain, from maritime equipment manufacturers and domestic shipyards to manufacturers of clean maritime technology.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Tony Foster, CEO of Marine Capital Ltd, said: ‘Shipping’s decarbonisation presents many challenges. Domestic shipping is enormously diverse, so merely getting to grips with that diversity was a key element in framing the report. We have highlighted, through case studies, financial mechanisms which can facilitate the participation of institutional capital, particularly in the large-scale fleet renewal that is required. The report clearly indicates how progress can be made now and the support which government can provide to unlock this investment.’’

Akash Kapur of UMAS said, “The UK domestic and short sea fleets’ structures of ownership and operation is ill-prepared and ill-suited to the rapid transition to new energy and technologies that is needed. The suggestions for new investors, novel ownership structures and coalitions, in combination with much greater clarity and regulation from government, provides a pathway for shipping to align with UK’s net zero objective.”

“The coming three decades will need to see a significant shift towards large-scale investments into new and retrofitted vessels in domestic fleets, zero carbon fuel production and bunkering infrastructure, alongside their associated supply chains, which can span across multiple related industries across the world,” observed Dr Carlo Raucci, Decarbonisation Consultant, LR Maritime Decarbonisation Hub. “These are deep, long-term commitments requiring a coordinated approach by both government and the industry to mobilise investments from external sources of capital.”

Jos Standerwick, CEO of Maritime London, who chaired the working group that highlighted the need for this report said: “This report provides a crucial contribution to the UK’s maritime decarbonisation plan. The report clearly evidences where the barriers to new capital entering the market exist and how the UK government can provide assurance to unlock investment. The UK domestic shipping industry now has the foundations of a commercial pathway to successfully achieve the UK’s net zero objectives.”

Download the report here.

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