ISWG-GHG: Reflections from Business Manager Johan Burgren

In March 2023, the maritime industry saw the fourteenth meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Greenhouse Gases (ISWG-GHG) take place in London, UK. The session highlighted that the industry is making positive strides towards decarbonization. Good progress was made, but the pace must be maintained or else we risk slipping back to ‘business as usual’.


“The IMO’s intersessional working group on greenhouse gas emissions has continued to work towards an updated strategy for 2023,” says Johan Burgren.


Discussions at the meeting tended to focus on mid-term measures ahead of ISWG-GHG 15. These might include technical components, such as a GHG intensity standard, as well as economic measures aimed at incentivising the global availability and uptake of low and zero carbon fuels. Further measures discussed include lifecycle carbon analysis (LCA) and collection of live fuel data consumption to better inform outcomes.

Looking forward, as we begin to build on these outcomes it is vital that we move on from discussions and start to take action. Importantly, ship owners must see zero-emissions solutions as the ‘next-build’ solution for the fleet as we cannot wait for the next generation of ships to adopt the zero-carbon technologies of the future.

Ultimately, the progress of emissions trading legislation in the EU and US show that, regardless of what the IMO decides, the future is low carbon for any vessels trading in either of these regions. For example, under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) carbon emitted will have to be paid for, either directly or in the form of trading. This will start with 40% of carbon emitted in 2024, before rising to 100% by 2026. There is clearly no time to delay. Carbon now trades at almost €100 per tonne – up from around €7 per tonne a few years ago. This is a major cost to companies who do not have carbon allowances to trade, and a major opportunity to those that do.

Technology switch

Meanwhile, the EU fuels directive stipulates a steadily increasing reduction in carbon intensity between now and 2050, starting with a 2% reduction by 2025 and building, ultimately, to 80% by 2050. This will particularly benefit ship owners using renewable liquid and gaseous fuels of non-biological origin between 2025 and 2034, who will receive more emissions offset credits than those who do not.

Overall, if shipping is to progress decarbonization at the rate the planet needs, it will require global regulation to support technology providers and shipowners in rapidly delivering and adopting low carbon technology. Alongside a mix of low-carbon options – such as green methanol and ammonia – a percentage of ‘true-zero’ options – such as hydrogen fuel cells – are essential. As we are already seeing in the EU, the financial rewards for installing equipment such as fuel cells are set to be substantial – this dynamic should be repeated globally.

Technology is advancing quickly and there are options for each sector – it is now time for regulation to keep pace and make sure the next generation of vessels can fully take advantage of it.

At PowerCell, we believe zero is the new hero. Our hydrogen fuel cells are scalable, reliable and safe with high power density and efficiency to support shipping’s decarbonization trajectory. Our Marine Fuel Cell System offer is developed with classification societies to meet the highest marine safety standards and is ready for delivery today.

Now is the time to start sustainable shipping. Learn more about our zero-emissions technology for the marine sector here.