Unlocking Opportunities for Green Shipping in Africa

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A Green Shipping conference in Accra, Ghana (15-16 February), provided a forum to discuss opportunities and challenges for African countries in the decarbonization of international shipping. Key drivers of change include an ambitious and global regulatory framework put in place by IMO addressing energy efficiency; development of new technologies; and investments in renewable energy and infrastructure. 

The conference – the first of its kind on the continent – was co-organized and co-sponsored* by IMO, in collaboration with the Maritime Authorities of Ghana and Denmark. Participants came from 15 African countries. 

Opening the Conference, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim stressed the importance of collaboration and cooperation: “Across the continent, there is a strong willingness and commitment to work with all stakeholders to explore and make a push towards renewable energy, to ensure that maritime transport benefits from the relevant investment and technology transfer, and that the workforce of the future is equipped for this imperative transition. Knowledge sharing is critical.”

Mr. Roel Hoenders, Head of Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency of IMO, presented IMO’s latest energy efficiency regulations (EEXI and CII) and state-of-play in the revision of the Initial IMO GHG Strategy and the development of a basket of mid-term GHG reduction measures and associated impact assessment. 

Through a programme of high-level in-person panels and interactive sessions, key decision-makers and senior advisers from African countries, leading business representatives from the maritime value-chain, ship-owners and operators to cargo owners, ports, energy producers and financial institutions, development banks, academia and civil society identified expectations with regard to the revision of the Initial IMO GHG Strategy and the development of economic measures. New ways of working together, especially between the public-private sector and between developed and developing countries, are crucial for the green transition. 

The panel sessions addressed opportunities and challenges in terms of unlocking finance for port infrastructure, renewable energy production, training and skill development of seafarers as well as job generation and attracting young generations to a low-carbon African shipping industry.

Country representatives highlighted the need to properly assess possible impacts on States of IMO’s next greenhouse gas reduction measures. There was a focus on ensuring an equitable transition, including by means of additional capacity building and technology cooperation provided through IMO.

Also emphasized was the need for further regional and cross-continental cooperation in promoting energy efficient shipping, including through the use of future carbon revenues for port bunkering infrastructure, scholarships in renewable energy economics, and possible retrofitting and upgrading of the African shipping fleet. 

The conference provided insightful elements which can inform discussions during the upcoming meetings of the Intersessional Working Group on Greenhouse Gases (ISWG-GHG) and MEPC 80 which will see the adoption of the revised IMO GHG Strategy and the further development of the basket of mid-term GHG reduction measures, including the associated analysis of possible impacts on States of economic measures.

Meanwhile Africa has an opportunity to become a world leader in seafarer training and could yet claim many of the new green jobs up for grabs as the global shipping industry transitions to low- and zero-carbon fuels, attendees were told at the Green Shipping Conference held recently in Accra.

The conference was hosted by the Ghana Maritime Authority in partnership with the Danish Maritime Authority and the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) was attended by delegates, including Directors-General of shipping, gathered representing 17 maritime authorities from across the African region.

With 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of $3.5 trillion dollars, Africa is one of the world’s biggest growth markets.

“Many shipowners are already ordering vessels with new designs, powered by alternative fuels and equipped with new technologies. More orders will be made of these new vessels. But the question is: do we have the crew to operate them?” asks Helio Vicente, senior manager of trade policy and employment affairs at global shipowners group, the International Chamber of Shipping.

Research commissioned by the Maritime Just Transition Force found as many as 800,000 seafarers could require additional  training by the mid-2030s to handle low and zero-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia if the IMO adopts a target for net zero emissions for shipping by 2050 in line with the 1.5 C goal of the Paris Agreement in July, as many expect it to.

The Task Force experts say as the industry cuts carbon pollution and moves away from fossil fuels to alternative low to zero carbon in anticipation of July’s decision, the training and maritime job opportunities are growing.

Addressing conference delegates, Vicente said: “There is already a shortfall in officers and almost 90,000 additional officers will be needed by 2026. Africa has the opportunity to step up and help provide the world with these seafarers and more, trained with the skills needed for the future.” He said that a future global centre of maritime excellence for seafarer training could be based in Africa, bringing with it more jobs and wider benefits for the region.

“Africa can leverage the strategic opportunities of this shipping revolution. But our advice is that you need to move on this now, today.”

Mohammed Dauda Safiyanu, Africa Regional Secretary for the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said: “We know that the decarbonisation of shipping, like any transport sector, will only be successful with a Just Transition for its people.”

“Our region, Africa, has an important role in developing the workforce of the future, and also to make sure our African seafarers are properly supported with good quality jobs. To capitalise on this transition, we need to start bringing all parties – governments, employers, and trade unions – together, to align the various training, health and safety, and investment elements. ITF is here to see Africa succeed, and see our continent’s seafarers succeed. Seafarers move the world,” said Safiyanu.

Captain Catherine Haizel, maritime lecturer and seafarer, said:

“Governments and employers need to listen to the voice of women seafarers about what we need from a life at sea. I know from many years as a seafarer and as a teacher of maritime studies, that quality training, conditions and benefits make the difference. I see a huge potential for a Just Transition to improve our industry so we can attract more women and more African seafarers.”

Captain Haizel is also ITF inspector for Ghana. She is lecturer at the Regional Maritime University in Ghana and is a member of the Ghana Merchant Navy Officers’ Association.

Sturla Henriksen, Special Advisor, Ocean,UN Global Compact, said: “Moving towards a low-emission global economy will create tens of millions of new, high-quality green jobs across sectors. Through ensuring a Just Transition to a green economy, Africa has an opportunity to capitalize on the emerging green jobs of the future – in shipping and beyond. Governments must now come to the International Maritime Organization this summer and align on an ambitious decarbonization goal of total zero emissions by 2050 with strengthened 2030 and 2040 targets to align to the 1.5ºC of the Paris Agreement. This will help to unlock the investments in seafarer training and skills today to support the green maritime jobs of the future. Small and medium enterprises can play an important role in green job creation, and the UN Global Compact Africa Strategy provides a sustainability roadmap for action.”

The Task Force sees July as an important moment to achieve ambitious consensus and unlock the investment needed to unleash the green maritime jobs of the future. The Maritime Just Transition Task Force was established during COP26 in November 2021, by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the United Nations Global Compact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Task Force aims to support a just and human-centred decarbonization of the shipping industry. The Task Force is grateful to its primary funder, Lioyds Register Foundation, and to its programme partner, the Singapore Maritime Foundation.

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