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Japan studies options to cut coastal shipping emissions

Japan studies options to cut coastal shipping emissions
Rieko Suda 01 July 2021

Japan is examining options to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coastal shipping, as it considers raising an emissions target for the industry in line with the country's more ambitious 46pc reduction target for 2030 on 2013 levels.

The transport ministry is discussing presenting a decarbonisation roadmap later this year for the country's coastal shipping industry, which handles 40pc of domestic freight transport, as it seeks to revise the industry's 2030 emissions reduction target to 17pc compared with 15pc previously. The ministry is working out a separate policy for coastal shipping because of its structural problems that could hinder capital investment in greener operations, as the industry is dominated by small enterprises with limited working capital.

Around 4,000 operators and shipowners operated 7,400 coastal vessels, 70pc of which were past their 14-year service life, during the April 2018-March 2019 fiscal year. This contrasts with the international shipping industry where 200 firms operated 2,600 ocean-going vessels.

The transport ministry is considering exploring next-generation vessels for coastal shipping, such as battery-operated and hydrogen fuel cell ships, along with LNG-fuelled ships, to reduce emissions and work towards decarbonisation. The introduction of such ships is expected to be mostly limited to domestic shipping routes where infrastructure is sufficient until 2030, according to the ministry.

Japan has developed LNG bunkering infrastructure at key domestic ports since the 2015 launch of the country's first LNG-fuelled ship Sakigake by shipping firm NYK Line. Rival shipping firm Mitsui OSK Lines last year launched the LNG-fuelled coastal bulk carrier Isemirai in central Japan's Ise bay where LNG bunkering infrastructure has been set up.

The existing hydrogen pipeline at Yokohama-Kawasaki port has attracted a proposed pilot operation of a hydrogen-powered fuel cell passenger ferry from 2024. More projects are in the pipeline for hydrogen-powered ships in efforts to take advantage of proposed hydrogen infrastructure at Kobe in west Japan, Chita and Yokkaichi in central Japan and Hibikinada in south Japan.

The coastal shipping industry has also made some progress in its shift to all-electric vessels particularly for small size, short-distance shipping. Shipping firm NS United in 2019 launched a hybrid coastal bulk carrier that can run on a diesel engine or lithium-ion batteries. Shipbuilder Oshima Shipbuilding in 2019 commissioned a battery-powered electric passenger ship.
Coastal expansion

The transport ministry expects use of greener ships will be expanded for coastal shipping after 2030 with further development of domestic supply infrastructure expected for carbon-neutral marine fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia and synthetic fuels. This is in line with Tokyo's target to commercially deploy its first-generation zero-emissions vessels before 2028. Tokyo is considering providing financial support for development of hydrogen- and ammonia-fuelled vessels, along with fuel supply infrastructure.

The transport ministry is also planning to continue pursuing energy efficiency in coastal shipping by launching next-generation vessels, including those with hybrid marine propulsion systems. Such conventional fuel-efficient ships can be refitted with rechargeable batteries or hydrogen fuel cell batteries, or converted to be fuelled with synthetic fuels after 2030 to achieve carbon neutrality. It is also looking to improve efficient shipping operations, such as weather routing and use of onshore power to reduce emissions when moored at ports.

The ministry last year enforced a revised efficiency rating programme for coastal ships, targeting to help the industry enhance the fuel efficiency of their vessels. A total of 43 coastal ships have so far been awarded the highest efficiency ranking, including three LNG-fuelled vessels.