COP26: The next wake-up call for shipping’s decarbonisation efforts
October 2021

By Erik Hånell, President & CEO of Stena Bulk
October 2021

The moment has finally come and COP26 will take place in Glasgow next week. The much-anticipated event will see, for the first time, representatives of the shipping community taking part in global climate discussions among other business and government leaders.

The shipping industry has finally recognised that decarbonising the global fleet is unavoidable: one way or another, the next decade will be decisive, will radically reshape the way in which the sector does its business, and will transform the design, look, and engineering of the assets that transport the world’s cargo.

Our commitment to pioneering innovation and sustainability excellence is part of our DNA and has been a crucial element of our business strategy for a very long time. This gives us an important advantage when conversations about our industry’s environmental performance take centre stage in events such as COP26.

In line with this, COP26 will be an important platform for our industry to update the world on the work we’re doing to champion future fuels and clean technology innovation - among other fascinating areas of maritime sustainability – as well as call for regulatory and financial support.

However, COP26 will also be a forum where our industry is likely to see with full force the new, external pressures that are influencing change. At the same time, we are also expecting that more ambitious environmental goals will be set for companies operating in the maritime space as a result of COP26 discussions; if not directly, then due to the new pressure on the IMO and EU to act.  

Consumers, charterers and financiers are increasingly creating a demand side pull effect, which is adding pressure for shipping companies as we try to reconcile the priority of decarbonisation with the necessity of commerciality. At Stena Bulk, we believe that the best way to walk the tightrope is by prioritising innovation, ensuring we are ahead of the curve as we work to scale the solutions of tomorrow.

We always want to innovate and explore multiple pathways – even if some of them don’t reach fruition – this is the commercially sensible thing to do.
However, we must also recognise that, in ‘white heat’ of our day-to-day business, this is not an ‘all or nothing’ transition. Tanker shipping is integral to the world economy and, until new energy sources are found, scaled and their cost decreases, the cargo that Stena Bulk transports has an important underpinning role in all our lives.
We remain fully committed to an approach that enables Stena Bulk to work flexibly and champion innovation in vital areas such as future low and zero carbon fuels – namely making methanol a financially and commercially competitive option - while also doing our part to ‘keep the lights on’.

As part of this commitment, we recently joined other industry leaders in a worldwide call to action for shipping decarbonisation led by the Global Maritime Forum. We have always believed in the power of partnerships to drive change and therefore we believe that it is vital to join other voices and show that shipping is seriously committed to decarbonisation and that, together, our sector can speak with a united voice in favour of sustainability innovation.

While we remain on track to achieve carbon neutral operations by 2040 and become a completely net-zero business by 2050, Stena Bulk’s signing of this Call to Action also includes further commitments from us, such as the exploration – in collaboration with our joint-venture partners – of low carbon fuels and the feasibility of using carbon capture to further cut emissions.

Additionally, we have pledged to evaluate the scalability and availability of biomass resources for multiple applications together with the oil and gas majors, and develop a digital platform to track, share, and evaluate all emissions on individual voyages, making it available to other ship owners, operators, and charterers.

We will be following the discussions taking place at COP26 next week very closely, hoping that the event marks a turning point in shipping’s sustainability journey; one that encourages the entire maritime ecosystem to make real progress towards profitable decarbonisation.

Gothenburg, October 2021
Erik Hånell, President & CEO at Stena Bulk