26 Sep

Interview: Maersk’s Kenneth Poucher on the Shipping Industry’s Alternative Fuel Vision

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We sat down with Kenneth Poucher, Global Environmental Advisor at A.P. Moller Maersk and a new RSB delegate, to discuss our upcoming marine panel at the RSB Annual Meeting in December. As part of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), Kenneth and A.P. Moller-Maersk have been working with partners across the shipping to sector to develop strategies to ensure the long term sustainability of the industry. RSB is looking forward to welcoming Kenneth, A.P. Moller-Maersk and representatives from SSI to our Annual Meeting!

Hi Kenneth, thanks so much for sitting down with me today. We are very excited to have you on board as a delegate – and for SSI to be taking part in our Annual Meeting. Can you tell us a bit more about the SSI vision for 2040?

Thanks for having me! I’m looking forward to our first time at the meeting – especially in my new role as delegate. It’s been great to engage with RSB and the timing is great. Shipping plays a critical role in the global economy and recognising that the challenges of the future demand significant change, SSI members have developed a shared vision for 2040 of an industry where social, environmental and economic sustainability equates to commercial success. Achieving that vision in 2040 requires concrete action today and we’re looking at solutions to diversify our energy mix, become more energy efficient and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly. It also involves us looking at ways to ensure safe and secure working environments, ensuring transparency and good governance and developing solutions that reward sustainable performance. And all of this on a grand scale!

What has motivated SSI to start looking into the potential of the bioeconomy for solutions to the industry’s climate impacts?

We’ve been looking at potential solutions to the industry’s climate impact for several years now. Our members see it as a key challenge and we are determined to find scalable, sustainable solutions that will allow us to achieve our 2040 vision and play an important role in tackling climate change.

Back in 2015 the SSI commissioned a study from University College London (UCL) that examined the CO2 reductions required in order to limit global emissions to below the 2 degrees target. Our work then focused on what could be done now, with a deeper dive into the fuel solutions that would have to developed in order to more away from Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO). Earlier this year we published our Zero Emission Vessel, a study which examines the requirements of zero emission vessels, the maturity of the technology, carbon prices and upstream carbon emissions in order to assess the viability of three types of new fuels.

This study showed that at present the only viable fuel alternative to HFO is biofuel. However, given the potential sustainability issues involved, our working group has started a deep dive into whether biofuels present a truly sustainable option for decarbonising our industry.

Why has the SSI chosen work with RSB and its members as you look at developing a roadmap for decarbonising the marine sector?

Decarbonising the marine sector is a huge task and we believe that we will find better solutions, faster, by building alliances with other industries and leaders like RSB and its community. RSB has been working successfully to support the sustainable use of biofuels in other industries and by working with you and your community members we believe that we can learn really important lessons for our own journey. We are looking to hit the ground running in order to find the solutions we urgently need in order to meet the targets set by the IMO and the Paris agreement – and we hope that by working with the RSB community we will gain that head-start!

It’s fantastic to have SSI participating in our Annual Meeting – what are the key outcomes and insights you will be looking for?

We’re really looking forward to it! The discussions we are most keenly anticipating are around the main issues and challenges we might face when looking at launching a biofuel programme and the lessons we can take from other sectors who have trod this path before us. We will also be looking at issues of supply and sustainable sourcing – and it will be interesting to look at what’s needed to build a sustainable biofuel supply chain at scale.

Finally, who do you hope to see joining us at the meeting?

It’s going to be great to hear from the aviation sector – who are further down this road than we are – and see how we can learn from them and potentially collaborate. We also want to meet biofuel suppliers and producers, discuss some of the technical issues in producing different grades of biofuels. It’s important to us as well that we hear from NGOs about the environmental and social issues we may face. Of course, we hope to see lots of people from our own industry joining us – this movement requires huge collaboration – so we look forward to seeing representatives from the ports, ship owners, cargo owners and more taking part.