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African ports to become low carbon shipping hubs as maritime industry adopts new emissions strategy

Mr Xiaojie Zhang, International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Director, Technical Cooperation Division. PHOTO/IMO


Africa’s abundance of solar, wind and thermal energy across the continent can place it at the core of the global decarbonization of maritime transport, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conference on Low-Carbon Shipping in Africa heard.

Speaking at the Conference, held in In Mombasa, Kenya and co-organized with the Kenya Maritime Authority, Mr Xiaojie Zhang, Director, Technical Cooperation Division, IMO, reminded delegates that 2023 is a critical year for maritime decarbonization, with Member States at the 80th session of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in London the first week of July set to adopt IMO’s 2023 GHG Strategy.

Mr Zhang called on African nations to “to make your voice heard, and to unlock the great potential the phase out of greenhouse gas emissions of international shipping can generate in Africa.”

“When IMO adopts this July a revised GHG Strategy with a clear phase‑out date of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, the global shipping industry will actively look at providers of alternative shipping fuels and African ports could become future energy hubs for low carbon shipping fuels,” Mr. Zhang said.  

He emphasized the importance of carbon revenues that could be generated through an IMO economic measure – like a fuel levy – for financing port infrastructure, retrofitting capacity, or bunkering facilities across Africa.

Participants during the IMO conference on Low-Carbon Shipping in Africa. PHOTO/IMO

This theme was echoed by, Ms Nancy Karigithu, Special Envoy on Blue Economy, Kenya, who highlighted the range of range of financing mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships, climate funds, and green bonds, to support the transition to low-carbon shipping.

Ms Karigithu who is among candidates shortlisted for the IMO Secretary General’s post, also emphasized  the need for the transition in maritime to low-carbon shipping in Africa to consider the socio-economic dimensions of the challenge. “The transition needs to be inclusive and equitable,” she said.

Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, Minister of Transport, Ghana, echoed the call for Africa’s participation at IMO meetings, “to ensure our needs and concerns are addressed and also indicate our support or otherwise for global maritime regulations”.

“Africa is the key to speeding up global climate action on the Decarbonization Agenda. With its young and growing workforce, vast lands and various natural resources, the continent has the potential to make an important contribution to tackle climate change. These assets could be crucial in driving global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, while creating new economic opportunities,” Mr Ofori Asiamah said.

The IMO conference on Low-Carbon Shipping in Africa focused on “Overcoming challenges by unlocking opportunities and investments”.

Ms Nancy Karigithu, Kenya’s special envoy on blue economy and a candidate for the IMO Secretary General’s post. PHOTO/IMO

Common themes throughout the panel session were the opportunities for Africa as a continent, in terms of producing low and zero carbon future fuels. The challenges were highlighted, as well as the need for technology transfer and financing – and for the transition to be just and equitable transition.

Projects already underway and planned were outlined, including those being facilitated by IMO‘s Department for Partnerships and Projects, including through the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre for Africa (MTCC-Africa) such as the IMO-NORAD TEST Biofouling projectand the EU-funded Global MTCC Network Project (GMN) Phase II. Country representatives from Angola, United Republic of Tanzania, South Africa and Kenya outlined their ongoing work to green their ports.

Many delegates who spoke voiced the need for IMO to give clear direction through its revised climate strategy. In his final remarks, Roel Hoenders, Head, Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency, IMO, agreed that “setting an ambitious GHG reduction target at MEPC 80 will send a strong signal to the market and investors that maritime is ready to decarbonize – and this will bring new investments and new jobs to Africa”.

Mr Shadrack Mwadime, Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs, said that the discussions held during the conference “will better help African countries to prepare for the upcoming Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in July, and for African countries to have a common approach on how we want the international community to address greenhouse gas emissions”.

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