The maritime industry can lead the charge towards Net Zero

3 min read

The maritime industry will be the driver for not only a greener future in its sector but for others that will follow in its footsteps, says Jonathan Taylor, VP of Marine at Expleo. 

As several roadmaps are being created as part of the UK government’s plan to reach its target goal of net zero, it’s clear all businesses can do more to tackle carbon emissions across all industries, especially in sea transport.

Guides such as Maritime 2050 and the Ten Point Plan have been published and these will help to steer the country towards a greener, cleaner future. These were devised after the ‘Build Back Better World’ initiative was created at the latest G7 Summit in Cornwall.

With 90 per cent of world trade transported by sea, it’s no surprise the maritime industry has been named as one of the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases. It’s therefore clear the sector has a large role to play in the fight against climate change. And with the UK being one of the key maritime nations across the globe, our shipping industry will lead the way in this march towards change.


The government has requested that the shipping industry is decarbonised as part of its 2050 Maritime objectives – but this won’t be a straightforward task. Challenges such as ship design, vessel operational profiles and port infrastructure along all traditional shipping routes will be hard to navigate but are tests that we will embrace and overcome.

The power of technology to drive change

Clean maritime growth will be a key focus of the Maritime 2050 initiative, as well as working on strengthening the UK’s reputation for innovation and ensuring that the value of new maritime technologies is recognised and maximised.

Decarbonisation technology is so advanced that it has already transformed the maritime industry and it continues to evolve within the connected world that we live in. This will benefit businesses in the form of cost and time savings, whilst helping to save the planet.

If the industry is intent on achieving decarbonisation, commercialisation also needs to become more efficient. Making sure existing vessels are transformed to net zero machines by ensuring that carbon-neutral fuel can be used on them is just as important as focusing on designing new ships that create new sustainability maritime standards for the world to follow.

Making ports and ships smarter and more technologically advanced is still a priority as this, alongside rethinking the entire shipping operation and re-tracking routes will allow for the right level of service for businesses and consumers at the right price.

Immediate, efficient change

Designing ships to be effective at fuel provisioning has quickly risen the agenda when it comes to green engineering.

Alternative fuels that will eventually power the entire maritime industry will be the starting blocks on how we move forward with designing and building new ships and restoring current ones to make sure the industry is net zero by 2050. The cost of this will also be at a fraction of the price compared to fossil fuels.

Retrofitting vessels to reduce the use of traditional diesel engines with greener power solutions is one of the many different technologies that we are currently exploring.

Alternative fuel sources and investigations into how to design new ways to store green energy are also being researched. Ultimately, we need to ensure all ships can perform as effectively as they are doing now without the large quantity of greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels.

That’s why we are in the process of developing solutions based on artificial intelligence to improve energy efficiency on vessels. This includes Deep Learning Neural Networks which are designed to provide an extra ‘mind’ to assist the crew when on the bridge. We believe this new technology which will have a massive impact on the maritime industry’s greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Up to 60 per cent of the lifetime cost of a vessel can be attributed to fossil fuels. Where those in the maritime industry can save money by using more cost-effective, carbon-neutral fuels, the saved money can be funnelled back into investing and exploring even newer, greener technologies that will help move the maritime industry forward at a quicker, more effective pace.

Hydrogen and methanol are some of the newer and greener fuels, however, they require larger storage space on ships in comparison to fossil fuels. Therefore, deciding on how to use these power sources to their full effect is becoming increasingly more vital.

AI will not only help to manage the energy and ensure safe trips whilst guaranteeing minimal carbon emission, but it will also provide state of the art technology that will support the industry with its complete decision support system by monitoring ships and their state in real-time.

Achieving Net Zero

With 2050 and its Net Zero targets getting ever closer, it is important for all involved to look forward to the challenge ahead and be excited about how this will positively impact lives in the future.

More effective, greener technologies are continuing to be discovered and with the use of AI and digitalisation – alongside passion and creative engineering – the industry is beginning to transform for the better.

Working together and sharing ideas will be crucial to ensure this transformation happens to the extent it needs to within the time frame. The development and efficient rollout of the vaccine during the pandemic over the last year has shown the world that when action is needed to improve the lives of many under time pressure, it can be done. What would normally take years of research and trials can be done, in the right circumstances, in a matter of months.

The maritime industry will be the driver for not only a greener future in its sector but for others that will follow in its footsteps. Buoyed by the prospect of creating a better future for the generations to come, those involved in this journey are welcoming the challenge with open arms.

Jonathan Taylor, VP of Marine at Expleo