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Sustainable energy solutions for African Maritime

By Yemi Olakitan

Sustainable energy solutions for the African Maritime will reduce the environmental and social impacts of the shipping and port sectors, while enhancing their operational efficiency and economic viability. Some of the possible solutions include:

Green shipping is one of those solutions. It involves complying with international standards and conventions that regulate the emissions, pollution, and waste management of ships. Green shipping can also adopt innovative technologies and practices, such as using renewable fuels, optimizing routes and speeds, and implementing energy-saving measures on board, according to reports.

Sustainable smart ports:

These are ports that leverage on new data environments, the energy transition of the maritime sector, as well as artificial intelligence and green technology-based solutions to enhance port operational efficiency, promote energy efficiency and clean/renewable energy sustainability, as well as tap into the possibility of producing clean/renewable-energy production and distribution.

Green hydrogen: This is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from water using electrolysis powered by solar, wind, or other renewable sources. Green hydrogen can be used as a fuel for ships, vehicles, and industries, or as a feedstock for other chemicals. Green hydrogen has the potential to decarbonize the maritime sector and create new opportunities for economic development and regional integration in Africa.

These solutions are not only beneficial for the environment and the society, but also for the competitiveness and resilience of the maritime industry in Africa. They can help reduce costs, improve performance, create jobs, and attract investments. They can also help African countries recover better from the post COVID-19 impacts and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In March of 2023, delegates from the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction at the United Nations reached a historic agreement on the High Seas Treaty to protect the world’s oceans and marine life.

Additionally, “Life Below Water”, with Sustainable Development Goal, acknowledges the importance of absorbing around 30% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. These two strong messages have identified the shipping industry as a key player to protect the environment.

Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is a major challenge for the maritime industry, as sustainable energy sources require significant investment and developmental procedures.

Innovation of new technologies cannot happen in isolation, as various industries are interconnected and need to collaborate. For instance, the maritime industry often relies on research and development produced by larger sectors such as battery storage, hydrogen, and automobile industries.

To comply with the Paris Agreement, some industries, such as the maritime industry, have transitioned to using LNG as a bridge fuel, which is considered a low-carbon energy source that can meet the demand of industries typically reliant on fossil fuels.

For instance, in South Korea, three out of four major oil refineries recently retrofitted their energy systems to use LNG, and leaders in the Korean shipbuilding industry report a significant increase in orders for LNG-powered ships. This rise in demand is likely due to the UN-endorsed policies of the International Maritime Organization in 2018, which demand global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Given some significant downsides to using LNG as a bridge fuel, the LNG transition is one that comes with concern. Methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, is released when extracting and transporting LNG. This dilemma is similar to that of electric vehicles, as the production of lithium-ion batteries also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite these challenges, historical trends indicate that the current economy will likely continue to rely on accessible energy sources like crude oil and natural gas due to their consistency and accessibility. There is still a need for bridge-fuels before the world can transition to renewable energy sources.

The shipping industry has the potential to push sustainable energy forward, as all ships around the globe work under a comprehensive regulatory body, the International Maritime Organization. There is little dialogue concerning the collaboration, however, which is necessary to transfer technologies between countries and industries.

This lack of cooperation plays a significant role in global energy poverty, as all groups prioritize their own development of energy and turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. The world may be more willing to trust renewable energies when they are established widely in other industries.

As a result, everyone has started to speak of the partnerships between governments and the private sector to reduce emissions and to develop resources and innovations for renewable energy. Lack of transparency, geopolitical challenges, and the underdeveloped supply chain for renewable energy have created roadblocks for the shipping industry to enter these partnerships.

With greenhouse gas levels likely to continue to rise in the coming years, there is no time for self-interest. Collaboration is necessary for a sustainable future.

The world has witnessed for a long time that economic leaders have been engaged in a brutal competition to take advantage of technology and resources. This kind of conflict and the resulting energy poverty has no place in a new era of climate change.

As of now, the shipping industry is waiting for other sectors to innovate and gain experience. By utilizing research and development investments and technology to fund progress in all countries across the rapid net-zero emissions, the shipping sector can initiate the global energy transition.

In Nigeria, the establishment of a Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy by President Bola Tinubu when he assigned new ministerial portfolios to the members of his cabinet is cheering news and development, for the economic development of Nigeria, if taken seriously and given the adequate resources to function optimally.

It will also be crucial, if Bunmi Tunji-Ojo, the pioneer Minister and his colleagues in that ministry, fully understand the concept of sustainable energy solutions in the maritime sector and the important role of this unique and innovative ministry.

The need to explore environmental friendly energy solutions in Nigerian maritime sector has never been more crucial.

Nigeria must implement all energy solutions that make the maritime sector contribute to the eradication of global warming and climate change.

 

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