Tony McDonough writes…
Ben Murray, chief executive of Maritime UK, chaired the panel on technology and innovation which was the final main session of the Mersey Maritime Exchange.
However, given innovation is central to the path to net zero carbon, the discussion quickly became more like a second session on the environment and, in particular, on the current complexity of the move towards greener fuels.
Ewan Chesser, global technology centre manager at multi-national energy corporation Chevron, acknowledged the business he worked for, and the whole energy sector, was having to tackle fundamental change.
He explained: “We produce fuels and we know that is going to have to be different from the way we do it today. Everyone appreciates that. But we don’t know yet what those fuels will be.
“It will be driven by economics in different parts of the world. In one region there might be a focus on biofuels where in other locations it might be hydrogen. The point is there will not be a single solution to this. The whole chain needs to work together and, with the right stimulus, we can make things happen.
“We also need the right policies around the work. Businesses need to see the incentives to make the changes. They need to see how they will be financially rewarded.”
Expleo is a global engineering, technology and consulting service provider. Its vice-president, Jonathan Taylor, spoke of the need to reduce complexity when it comes to which green fuels will be best.
He explained: “We need it to be simplified. It needs to be clearer where we need to be. We also need the right money at the right time to fund this innovation. People will ask ‘how do we find the finance?’.
“Our industry needs to make a commitment to build partnerships so we are in a position to tell Governments exactly what we need. There is a need to cut through the complexity and inject a bit of pace.”
Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani is a former Transport Minister who played a pivotal role in the Maritime 2050 strategy. She is currently independent chair of the Belfast Maritime Consortium, of which Artemis Technologies, which is developing a zero-emission passenger vessel, is a leading member. The consortium aims to launch the world’s most advanced zero-emission commuter ferry service between Belfast and Bangor. Artemis has recently launched to market the world’s first commercially viable zero-emission 100% electric foiling workboat.
Addressing the conference via video link she praised the maritime sector saying it was an industry that was “prepared to take risks and innovate”. But she acknowledged the “size of the challenge” in the decarbonisation of the sector saying there needed to be an 80-fold increase in the use of renewable energy.
Ms Ghani added: “The Belfast Maritime Consortium is a public private partnership and academia is a key part of that. It involves around a dozen companies and is incredibly important to UK plc.
“If you are ahead of the curve and have the right partnerships then you can be the first when it comes to driving forward new innovation.”