The opportunities for the UK to become an early mover in the deployment of zero emission fuel have been highlighted in a new report published by UMAS, an independent maritime and energy decarbonisation consultancy, and Arup, a global sustainable development and engineering consultancy.


'Opportunities for the UK to kick-start shipping’s transition to zero emission fuel' outlines actionable ways the UK can become an early mover in the global shipping industry’s decarbonisation.

The urgency of meeting shipping’s decarbonisation targets is underscored by the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) revised Greenhouse Gas (GHG) strategy, which sets ambitious goals for zero or near-zero GHG emission energy sources to constitute between 5% and 10% of the energy used by international shipping by 2030. This will require the simultaneous scaling up of production facilities and supply chain infrastructure in the UK, including renewable energy and green ammonia production facilities.

Coupled with ongoing uncertainty regarding the development of zero GHG emission fuels, related to demand, scalability, and cost-effectiveness, there is currently a perceived lack of confidence from stakeholders, in turn inhibiting much-needed investment.

The research explores the potential impact and infrastructure needed to decarbonise the operations of six large ferries operating regular routes from ports in the Northeast of England, or seven container vessels operating from ports in the Solent, on the South Coast. Findings demonstrate that the potential carbon savings could align shipping in these regions with the most ambitious decarbonisation international trajectories.

Leveraging UMAS's first mover route identification tool ‘FUSE’, and Arup's expertise in zero-emission fuel production, design and delivery, the report demonstrates that the UK has an opportunity to become an early mover in the space, as well as develop critical last-mile infrastructure to help secure its position in the future fuels market.

The report examines crucial factors that influence scalable zero emission fuel supply and demand in the UK and sets a proven framework for global sustainability efforts. Understanding current shipping energy demand is instrumental in identifying opportunities to concentrate decarbonisation efforts and mitigate investment risks. UMAS has provided key insights into the energy makeup of fleets operating in dynamic port areas such as the Northeast (including Teesside, the Humber, and the Tyne River) and the Solent strait (Southampton-Portsmouth).

The study found that decarbonising a portion of the energy demand in these regions presents a tangible pathway towards achieving the IMO's decarbonisation goals. For instance, the estimated demand for heavy fuel oil equivalent in the Northeast in 2023 is approximately 513 ktonnes, while the Southampton/Portsmouth port area has a demand of around 751 ktonnes. Decarbonising just 10% of this demand using methanol, ammonia, or hydrogen-derived fuels would create substantial progress towards sustainability.

UMAS and Arup’s collaboration paves the way for further expansion of the model in other regions, both across the UK and globally. Offering a new approach to unlocking decarbonisation opportunities, the partnership demonstrates how collaborative efforts can accelerate the identification of opportunities and solutions in the space.

The UK has a real opportunity to become an early mover in shipping’s transition to zero emission fuels. As the research has highlighted, making small, smart changes to our existing fleet will enable the UK to align with the most ambitious international shipping decarbonisation trajectories and showcase the UK as a leader in taking real action in this area.

Chris Thorne

Director of Strategy and Operations, UMAS

Chris Throne added "We recognise the growing government support directed towards hydrogen-derived fuels. However, further understanding is needed into the specific geographic areas of energy demand for these fuels. This collaboration has enabled us to identify actionable opportunities for decarbonisation within the maritime sector for specific areas in the UK. We are well placed to support others in their efforts to navigate the complex landscape of decarbonisation and unlock sustainable pathways for the maritime sector globally."

Arup and UMAS urge stakeholders to seize the early mover opportunities presented by the UK's potential to kick-start the transition towards zero-emission shipping. By leveraging existing assets, supporting energy security, and unlocking economic opportunities, the UK can pave the way for a greener, more sustainable maritime industry.

Click here to download the report