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FEATURE: ZEMBA RfP adds to increased options for decarbonization for containers


ZEMBA's green RfP to provide alternative to carrier green shipping services

Shippers yet to full embrace green initiatives from carriers

  • Author
  • Chris To
  • Editor
  • Jonathan Fox
  • Commodity
  • Agriculture Energy Transition Oil Shipping
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  • Energy Transition Environment and Sustainability

Shippers and carriers are beginning to show their hand in their long-term decarbonization plans, with a recent Request for Proposal (RfP) offered by the Zero Emission Maritime Buyers Alliance propelling the acceleration of decarbonization efforts on a wider scale.

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Over the past few months, carriers have submitted their blueprints for "green shipping", in which they have promoted sustainable methods of cargo transportation in ocean freight at a premium in what is known as a book-and-claim system. Hapag-Lloyd's "Ship Green" and Maersk's !ECO Delivery! services stand out as verifiable green shipping products underpinned by the usage of biofuels.

Some shippers have aligned themselves with carriers in announced bilateral agreements, pushing a narrative of decarbonizing through co-ordinated shipments utilizing low-emission fuels in what is known in the container markets as carbon insetting.

ZEMBA RfP boosts green options

In recent weeks, ZEMBA -- which consists of a global cargo owner alliance with the aim of accelerating zero-emission shipping -- pushed an RfP for 600,000 TEUs for carriers to place their bids for volume allocation with the wider goal of decarbonizing global shipping services in mind.

The RfP, which will be open until Nov. 13 and pushed out over a three-year period, is for BCOs to allocate definitive volumes through a tender that would be shipped on zero-emissions fuels, helping both carriers and shippers decarbonize their supply chains en masse.

"This project is intended to give shipping lines exactly what they've been saying for years that they need in order to invest in zero emission fuels and technologies, i.e., longer-term offtake at sufficient volumes to create a business case," ZEMBA CEO Ingrid Irigoyen said in an interview with S&P Global Commodity Insight. "Pursuing this bilaterally is perfectly fine, but basic logic tells me it's unlikely to amount to the kind of catalytic deal we are offering in one bite."

ZEMBA expects there to be a period of back-and-forth negotiation in the period between the RfP closure and the first quarter of the year, and expect announcements to be made on tender awards "between late Q1 and early Q2," Irigoyen said.

In practice, ZEMBA has also left the door open for incorporating methodologies exhibited by carriers' own bespoke green shipping services, such as book-and-claim systems.

"Our core interest is ensuring that our cargo owner members feel highly confident that their premium payment has resulted in a verified emissions reduction through deployment of specific quantities of clean fuel," Irigoyen said. "Regarding verification and book-and-claim registries, this is in progress and we will work closely with bidders and ultimately the winner to determine the most robust, feasible approach."

Financing still in question for premiums

ZEMBA's RfP has come up against a measure of apathy from carriers who are more interested in the near-term pursuit of their own vertically integrated green shipping services.

While describing the initiative as a "good idea," Maersk CEO Vince Clerc suggested the company has little appetite in submitting any bids.

"That is not something we're considering at this stage," and Maersk would focus on customers "interesting in actually following us," he said.

For the longer term, premiums for green freight could fall or even disappear as regulations introduce pricing mechanisms on shipping emissions, according to Clerc.

Until then, questions are still rife among the industry in terms of willingness to steer towards green shipping services, primarily due to the additional costs at play.

One logistics provider highlighted that despite procuring high volumes of biofuels for integrated green shipping services offered to customers, they were having a difficult time selling them due to additional costs.

"Some of the budgets are missing for the customers -- it could cost more than $500/FEU extra for emissions on Asia-North Europe, and with the industry in cost-saving mode, getting those on board is still a process," the logistics provider said.

Platts, part of S&P Global, assessed Marine Fuel 0.5% Bunker Dlvd Singapore at $665/mt on Sept. 25, and Bio-Bunker B24 Singapore $/mt at $792.92/mt.

Others have suggested however that the phase-in of sustainability within supply chains will be forthcoming, noting that emissions reduction targets are already at the forefront of many companies' long-term strategies.

"It is important for a company to start at a baseline and take the first steps towards reducing emissions, the market is being created as we speak and it needs to grow and establish itself, which is not easy coming out of the COVID-19 period," David de Picciotto, CEO of Pledge, told the Journal of Commerce, a sister company of S&P Global.