Ghana will make history when she hosts maritime industry players on the African continent and beyond, in the first-ever International Green Shipping Conference in Africa. The Conference is being made possible under the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Danish Maritime Authority.
It will provide opportunities to discuss how to promote green shipping in Africa, will explore solutions, and share knowledge from different African experiences where concrete steps have been taken towards green shipping and also encourage engagement between the public-private sector on the agenda at hand.
The issue of environmentally friendly and sustainable shipping methods is of global concern, as concerted efforts are being made all over the world to decarbonize maritime transport. Ridding the industry of carbon dioxide emissions, is an aspect of the bigger drive by international bodies like the United Nations (UN) and some of the world’s most powerful countries, to counteract climate change.
According to the IMO, which is a branch of the UN, shipping currently accounts for about 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That, in context, places shipping at the 6th position if the industry were a country – following the like of China, the US, India, Russia, and Japan while leaving the likes of Germany, Canada, Iran, and Korea in its tracks.
While the Green Shipping Conference is taking place in Ghana on the 15th and 16th of February, the 7th Green Shipping Summit will be ongoing in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, on exactly the same two days. Green Marine Conference will also be taking place in Seattle in the United States of America in June 2023. Meanwhile, International Green Shipping Recycling Summit in India took place in January this year.
It, therefore, goes without saying that the world agrees that there is an urgent need to find an antidote to GHG emissions in shipping. For Ghana, it is a feather in its cap as the first host of a conference of this magnitude. The go-to solution widely espoused is the production of hydrogen fuel as an alternative. Hydrogen has qualities that make it produce energy without warming the environment, with water as its by-product instead of the fumes that are released to warm the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change.
It is no coincidence that Africa isn’t left out of worldwide conversations to mitigate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it pushes the boundaries for global leadership in the production of hydrogen energy. Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Mauritania, Egypt, and Morocco became torchbearers on the continent when they formed Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance (AGHA) in 2022.
Ironically, as compared to Asia, Europe, and America, the continent emits a negligible percentage of the world’s carbon dioxide. That said, it is blessed with lots of solar and onshore wind energy potential and large non-arable lands which are the basic requirements for hydrogen-based renewable energy production.
According to the United Nations Climate Change Champions (UNCCC), green hydrogen has the ability to quickly decarbonize hard-to-abate (HTA) substances from industrial sectors like iron, steel, cement, chemicals production, trucking, shipping sectors that rely solely on fossil fuels.
The six African countries that birthed the (AGHA) idea have confirmed their attendance to the Conference in Accra and are expected to promulgate the concept of green hydrogen intervention at the Conference. As per a report by Fitch Solutions, Ghana is a regional hotspot for green hydrogen development, placing 4th on the continent in their green hydrogen suitability index, in a 2021 report.
The Director General of Ghana Maritime Authority, Mr. Thomas Alonsi, has also noted with concern, the consumption of millions of barrels of fuel oils that has brought about a significant increase in the emission of noxious gases into the atmosphere due to the rapid increase in international shipping, and called for newer technologies for greener shipping. He made this known during last year’s World Maritime Day celebration.
During the just-ended 17th Extraordinary General Assembly of the Maritime Organisation of West And Central Africa (MOWCA), regional integration and foreign minister, Hon Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey called for a no-holds-barred engagement on green shipping.
“MOWCA must begin frank discussions on current developments in green shipping initiatives which involve the use of alternative fuels with low or zero carbon in place of fossil fuels as this is fast becoming the new way of shipping and Africa cannot afford to be left behind as the world makes this move,” she stated categorically.