Skip to main content

Maritime Industry

Volume 805: debated on Thursday 17 September 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion, if any, of the increased research and innovation funding, announced in the Budget on 11 March, is allocated to the maritime industry to assist that sector to meet its net zero emissions obligations.

My Lords, in begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I declare my maritime interests, as listed in the register.

The Chancellor has made it clear that one of his priorities is to make the UK a science superpower, including leading on the development of technologies that will support the Government’s ambition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In the autumn, the comprehensive spending review will set out details of this historic investment, giving researchers and innovators confidence and ensuring that we can meet the objectives we have set out in the R&D roadmap.

I thank the Minister for his reply. The maritime industry has worked tirelessly during the Covid emergency to keep vital supply lines open, but this has come at a cost and businesses’ cash reserves are now heavily depleted. The industry has submitted a bid for £1 billion of government investment under the comprehensive spending review to kick-start decarbonisation. This would create nearly 75,000 jobs in the maritime industry, across every nation of the UK and especially in our coastal communities. It would help to position Britain as a world leader in maritime decarbonisation, which will be an enormous area of business. Does the Minister recognise the potential of this investment and would he be willing to meet me and industry representatives to explore these possibilities and opportunities?

I agree with the noble Lord. The Government carry out their own research into the potential economic opportunities from low and zero-carbon emission shipping, and I recognise that this represents a historic opportunity for the UK. I would certainly be happy to organise a meeting for him, either with my department or the Department for Transport, whichever is the most appropriate.

[Inaudible.]—maritime still has a hurdle to climb. The recent Global Maritime Issues Monitor cited the World Maritime University’s research into workforce diversity, stating:

“Without increased diversity in the next 10 years, the pace of innovation in the maritime industry will be slow”.

This also applies to achieving net-zero emissions targets. The report made it clear that workforce diversity includes race and gender diversity and is relevant to the issue of net-zero targets. Therefore, what role do the Government have in promoting such diversity in the maritime industry?

The Government agree with the need to increase diversity in the maritime sector if it is to meet the challenges of the future. Of course, we need to embrace talent from everywhere. In support of this, we have been working actively with the sector to promote greater diversity. One notable success has been the Women in Maritime Taskforce, established in 2018.

My Lords, could the Minister tell us how far on the research into the use of butane, methane and ammonia is? Although the use of ammonia creates zero harmful emissions, my shipping friends here in Norway tell me that using ammonia as a fuel creates a very unpleasant smell. Is that problem being addressed? Incidentally, does the Minister know that the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, is very highly thought of in the maritime world, especially here in Norway?

Yes, I was aware of the high regard in which many Peers in this House, including the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, are held in all countries, including Norway, I am sure. I agree with the noble Lord that the challenge of decarbonisation in the maritime sector is a great one and we are looking at a number of alternative fuels, one of which is ammonia.

My Lords, as we are a nation that imports so much food and uses the maritime system so extensively, what does the Minister think about the fact that we do not yet count the emissions from shipping in our carbon budgets? Can the Government tell me what plans they have to include the sector in the decarbonisation plans to reach net zero?

We count the emissions from domestic shipping in our carbon budget plans, but the noble Baroness is right, of course, that we need to work internationally—through the International Maritime Organization and other fora—to reduce the emissions from shipping worldwide.

My Lords, the Minister mentioned that we should wait until the comprehensive spending review to see how much research money would go into this sector, but could he confirm that funding is going into the research and development of low-carbon ferries, which are very important in this country? Will the Government also support the construction of such a ferry at the recently rescued high-tech Appledore Shipyard for the Isles of Scilly to Penzance route, which would then replace the 43 year-old “Scillonian III”?

I know the noble Lord takes a close interest in developments on the Isles of Scilly; I have dealt with him in my previous jobs on similar matters. However, as I am sure he is aware, I cannot give specific spending commitments at this stage.

My Lords, decarbonising the maritime sector is going to require concerted effort on a global scale. Can the Minister say what position the UK is taking within the IMO with regard to incentives for the sector to decarbonise and, in particular, a proposal to introduce a small tax on bunker fuel—which is currently untaxed—which could be used to build a fund to carry out more R&D into decarbonisation?

I know that, as one of the leading shipping nations, we are working closely with a number of other nations in the IMO to bring about a reduction in emissions from the maritime sector. I am not aware of our precise position on the matters that the noble Baroness mentions, so I will write to her on that.

My Lords, we have heard a lot about the maritime industry and I strongly support that. However, I wonder what the position is on the air industry because, at the moment, there is a tremendous build-up from the public, who are waiting to be able to fly anywhere to get away from everything. It is a most important industry and I believe that it is complying with things like zero-emissions targets. However, the Government really must be aware of this need; how do they intend to meet it?

The ingenuity with which noble Lords extend these subjects far and wide never ceases to impress me, but the Question is on maritime emissions. The noble Baroness makes an important point about emissions from aircraft, which I am sure is duly noted.

The Government have repeatedly been asked to plug the gap of the exclusion of international aviation and shipping from the provisions of the Climate Change Act. In July, reports hinted that—at last—it was the Government’s intention to add shipping to its net-zero target but not until 2023. To take the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, a little further, I ask the Minister to explain the delay—especially after the Committee on Climate Change called for shipping to be formally included in the UK’s climate targets under the carbon budget?

As I said, we already include domestic shipping but, of course, putting shipping in our carbon budgets is very much an international matter. We work with other countries to ensure that emissions are counted in the same way for every country, but I have noted the noble Lord’s points.

My Lords, we have a proud history of innovation, especially in the marine field, and any help that the Government can give the shipping industry in this connection is most welcome. Without shipping, world trade would be a shadow of what it is today. Is not the real nub behind the Question to find a viable replacement for the modern combustion engine? Ships are very different from trains and cars and for a large ship—weighing several hundred thousand tonnes—to steam across the oceans of the world for over 20 years, a major solution is required. What are the Government doing to find this?

The noble Lord makes a valid point about the difficulties of decarbonising the maritime sector, and this is one reason why we are looking at alternative methods of propulsion. However, he is right to highlight the challenges.

My Lords, the Minister will be familiar with the Accelerating the Low Carbon Transition report, published by Brookings in conjunction with the Energy Transitions Commission. It is a mine of useful information and includes this fact:

“The top 20 ports, located in just 12 countries and jurisdictions, control 45% of global container freight.”

In preparation for COP 26, what steps are the Government taking to bring these countries and jurisdictions together to discuss a common regulatory approach to shipping emissions?

The noble Lord makes an important point. We are working with a number of other countries through the International Maritime Organization, and we accept that the maritime sector has an R&D gap, with little investment in alternative fuels to date, which is holding back decarbonisation. Therefore, there is no question that the sector presents a great challenge for the net-zero efforts.