The IMO’s sub-committee on the Carriage of Cargoes and Containers has announced last week that they intend to develop safety guidelines for the use of ammonia and hydrogen as alternative ship fuels. This is seen as a big step towards giving shipowners viable options to reduce their carbon footprint and meet the IMO’s GHG Strategy Targets.
The use of hydrogen and/or ammonia presents a greener alternative to the use of traditional ship fuel. But they are not without problems. The storage, transport and handling of both chemicals can be highly dangerous. The proposed guidance will set out provisions on ventilation, emergency shutdown procedures and risk assessments for their use.
Neither fuel is going to be an overnight solution to the shipping industry’s reliance on traditional, carbon-heavy fuels, not least because both ammonia and hydrogen (in the form currently used) are still derived from fossil fuels. The global fleet does not currently list any vessels for the burning of ammonia or hydrogen and so there is little or no infrastructure in place. Massive investment will be needed in the coming years to make the widespread use of these alternative fuels a reality. But this new guidance from the IMO is a welcome step.
The new guidelines are expected to be finalised in 2023 for hydrogen and 2024 for ammonia.