News November 20, 2023

Shipping navigates towards transparency amidst rise in alternative fuels

The shipping sector has come under increased scrutiny due to its environmental impact and lack of transparency in recent years. But it may “finally shift from the opacity (and endemic mistrust) of the past to a more professional, transparent and traceable future,” Integr8 Fuels bunker quality and claims manager Chris Turner writes in the company’s latest bunker quality report.

Need for change

Shipowners are turning to alternative fuels with significantly lower emissions than fossil fuels to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of their vessels. As technology advances, ships may eventually run on fuels with zero-emission potential such as ammonia or methanol.

For now though, biofuels and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are the most promising conventional fuel alternatives to meet upcoming emission intensity-reduction targets in the European Union’s FuelEU Maritime regulation and the International Maritime Organisations’ (IMO) revised GHG strategy. As conventional diesel engines do not require any modifications to run on biofuels, they have a competitive edge over LNG. For biofuel suppliers, however, this power comes with great responsibility.

 Encouraging a culture of responsibility

With the EU’s Emissions Trading System including shipping from next year, and with FuelEU Maritime coming into effect from 2025, shipowners will have to report their fleets’ verified emissions to, from and between EU ports. Turner explains that alternative fuel suppliers must show that the bio-components in their fuels are sustainable and provide proof of that to their customers.

“If this is not possible then the alternative fuels, which are generally bought at premiums to conventional fuels, would not be counted in any emissions saving, counting the same as mineral fuels,” he says.

As a result, alternative fuel bunker buyers – especially biofuel consumers – will pay close attention to the feedstocks and well-to-wake emissions associated with these fuels. This is likely to compel suppliers to maintain and encourage transparency and traceability through their product supply chain.

“Of course, not all suppliers will embrace alternative fuels or mandatory mass flow meters (as recently announced in Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brugge ports),” Turner argues, “but those who do will quickly realise their tried and tested practices will be challenged by the end users who will demand they demonstrate and certify sustainability.”

Navigating towards transparency

Documentation will be paramount in the evolving alternative fuels regime, Turner argues.

ISCC sample template for sustainability declarations and Proof of Sustainability (PoS). ISCC

The Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) issued by the marine fuel supplier must include the alternative fuel product and grade. For biofuels, bunker suppliers and operators will have to provide PoS or similar documentation to verify the sustainability of feedstock and energy inputs. The International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) is globally recognised as an approved sustainability certificate.

ISCC is a global certification system that sets standards for sustainable production, sourcing and trade of all kinds of bio-based feedstocks and biofuels. A PoS will be passed on throughout the whole supply chain – from initial producer to end consumer. It evaluates the sourcing of raw materials, supply chain management, land use, GHG emissions and social aspects of various companies’ activities.

This could all lead to a “changing of the guard” in the bunker industry, Turner suggests. Stakeholders “from barge deck hand to buyer, and beyond” will need to be retrained to avoid ambiguity on the BDN for the verifier, according to Turner.

Unlike IMO 2020, which was an overnight shift to mostly low-sulphur fuels, the gradual shift to alternative fuels will give suppliers time to realign their efforts to meet evolving industry standards for transparency and sustainability.

Turner discusses this subject, and assesses trends related to biofuels and all conventional grades of marine fuels in the free Bunker Quality Trends Report (Q3-2023).

Press Contact: Angela Freeth


Tel: +44 207 467 5877

Posted by
Angela Freeth
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