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TMS Tanker conference highlights challenges ahead on the road to industry decarbonisation

Climate change pressures and the drive to decarbonise the shipping industry dominated the proceedings of The Maritime Standard Tanker Conference 2023, which took place on November 8th at The Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai. There was broad agreement amongst speakers that this is the single most pressing issue facing tankers owners and operators, as well as other stakeholders, although in many respects the optimum pathway to achieve the goals necessary to protect the global environment is far from certain, with a number of alternative fuels and technology solutions challenging for future primacy. What was clear however was a collective will to succeed and protect future generations, and ‘Mother Nature’, from the environmental harms being caused by shipping which, as one speaker pointed out, would be the 8th biggest generator of carbon emissions in the world today if it were a country.

The 2023 TMS Tanker Conference, which featured a programme of expert presentations, lively panel discussions, and a series of interesting questions from the floor, was structured around the theme “Net Zero -Tanker Shipping Setting the Global Decarbonisation Agenda.” The event set out to highlight the ways in which this sector of the industry and its various components are in the vanguard of change.

Opening the conference, TMS Editor, Clive Woodbridge, said, “The primary focus of the conference this year is the drive to meet tough new climate change targets, and recently implemented environmental regulations, and this will be a ‘golden thread’ running through all our discussions. Not so long ago EEXI and CII were just letters in the alphabet; now they are firmly established parts of the shipping industry vocabulary. Tanker shipping is in many respects leading the way in embracing new ideas and concepts in response to the strategic imperative of tackling climate change, as well as the new regulatory context, and this conference will shine a light on that reality.”

The opening session, on “Setting Green Shipping Strategy – Policy Choices for the Tanker Sector” was preceded by a keynote speech from Capt. Abdulkareem Al Masabi, CEO of ADNOC Logistics and Services, who stressed the need for a proactive approach to climate change. Nobody was exempt from tackling climate change and sustainability had to be integrated into all elements of the tanker shipping business, with broad stakeholder involvement, he pointed out. Other speakers in this key session, which laid the foundations for the day-long discussions, included Dr Ibrahim Al Nadhairi, CEO, ASYAD Shipping and Drydocks; Emile Hoogsteden; CEO Sohar Port & Freezone; Shehab Al Rahma, Manager-Oil Terminals, Commercial, DP World; Mark Darley, COO, Lloyds Register; Capt. B K Tyagi, Chairman and Managing Director, The Shipping Corporation of India; and Stephen Kunzer, CEO, Lila Global. Key themes highlighted included  the dilemma over whether to retrofit or replace; the range of future fuels options, and the likelihood that there would be no one dominant fuel by 2050; the lack of shipyard capacity to carry out retrofits; the important role of ports and terminals in supporting the tanker industry in transition, particularly thorough flexible bunkering arrangements; and the important of seafarer training in managing the transition to cleaner fuels.

Session 2, on “Tanker Operations in an Era of Change’, complemented the first session and looked at some of the technical solutions that can be used to respond to the core strategic environmental imperatives in an efficient and financially viable manner. It also explored some of the constraints that could be imposed both by the market conditions and legal and financial uncertainty. A wide ranging session featured presentations from Rajiv Agarwal, Managing Director and CEO of Essar Ports; Morten Lero, Managing Director, DNV Maritime Advisory; Jamil al Ali, Middle East Regional Commercial & Business Development Director, Bureau Veritas; June Manoharan, Managing Director, Lenol DMCC; Katherine Yakunchenkova; Regional Director, Middle East, Blue Ocean Maritime Management; Rajiv Sarin, Managing Director, Alfa Laval, OceanGlide Air Lubrication; Ian Chung, Partner, HFW; Chris Peters, Head of Sales and Purchasing,  Montfort Investments; and Stam Achilles, Head of Business Development, Wartsila. One of the main conclusions of this group was that, not only is there no ‘one size fits all’ alternative fuel choice, but there are a range of technology retrofit options  that could play a key role in coming years. Consequently, there is likely to be a broad divergence according to vessel type, size and trade lane, with high newbuilding prices for tankers and scarce shipyard capacity becoming increasingly important influences.

The final session on support services proved highly engaging with speakers from the worlds of ship registry, digitalisation, surveying and training highlighting the important role their respective sectors can and will play in meeting the evolving needs of tanker shipping. Moderated by Ali Shehab, Global Director of Special Projects and Services, DNV, panelists included Capt. Amarjit Kauchhur, Vice President Middle East/Regional Director, International Registries (U.K) Limited – Dubai Branch; Meera Kumar, President and CEO of Diablo Global; Frederick Haentjens, COO, TankSkills; Cris Partridge, Managing Director, Myrcator Marine & Cargo Services; and Nikeel Idani, Honorary Secretary, IMarEST, UAE Branch.

Clive Woodbridge concluded: “This was a perfectly timed conference as there is no doubt that environmental issues have risen right to the top of the corporate agendas of tanker shipping owners and operators, with charterers also having a growing influence. Fuel and technology choices will be critical and if the conference did not have all the answers, at least attendees will have left with a much better understanding of the questions that need to be asked.”

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