Marine & OffshoreSeptember 15, 2023

Green corridors: from concept to reality

Public/private initiatives to encourage sustainable shipping between ports are considered a critical tool for catalyzing the marine industry’s transition to a zero-carbon future. Here’s why green shipping corridors are gaining momentum and how they help ports build an economic and environmental advantage.
Avatar Jean Benoit Bensoussan

There are now more than 21 green shipping corridor initiatives underway since UN member states signed the Clydebank Declaration at the climate change conference, COP26, in 2021. The aim of the agreement was to establish zero-emission shipping routes between ports, called green corridors, and encourage new public and private partnerships to help get there. Working together, it’s hoped that ports and operators across the industry will develop the related infrastructure and shore power capabilities needed to create the blueprint for sustainable shipping.  

At its core, a green corridor is a shipping route between two or more ports that share a common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as by facilitating the availability of renewable energy and supporting local economic and social expansion.

These types of initiatives are being driven by public and private actions and policies, and focus particularly on supporting the transition to zero-carbon alternative fuels needed to meet the latest sustainability targets set out in the International Maritime Organization’s Greenhouse Gas Strategy. They require investment from ports and operators covering everything from bunkering facilities with alternative fuels, renewable shore power, ballast water treatment and inland connectivity.

Removing barriers to green corridors

So far, the Global Maritime Forum has reported a “significant level of public-private collaboration” around green corridors – more than 110 stakeholders are engaged in such initiatives covering many of the world’s most important deep-sea shipping routes. Progress, however, has been fairly slow and only a few green corridors are at the feasibility assessment or implementation planning stages.

One of the main barriers to implementing green corridors is uncertainty around the industry’s energy transition pathway. Simply put, key stakeholders still don’t agree on which fuels to focus on. Experts highlight the importance of coordinating action among stakeholders – ports, ship operators, fuel suppliers, regulators and more – which must understand their role in the value chain and be prepared to collaborate.

To accelerate the establishment of green corridors, the Global Maritime Forum has set out seven key recommendations:

  1. Involve key stakeholders early in the process
  2. Close the fuel cost gap for zero-emission shipping through national policies
  3. Ensure governments support impactful and feasible first mover routes
  4. Specify clear fuel pathways where possible
  5. Prioritize learning by doing
  6. Focus on the technology and processes needed to incrementally reduce carbon emissions
  7. Make any technologies and knowledge widely available.

Connected, competitive ports

Experts widely agree that green corridors will not only accelerate the uptake of zero-emission fuels but will also strengthen a port’s competitive advantage – put in place carbon reducing shore power facilities and ships will come. By participating in the social and economic expansion of their host cities, ports will also help to drive the wider decarbonization of the economy.

It’s why ports and operators are beginning to invest heavily in the infrastructures that will support green corridors and are becoming key stakeholders in the future development of the cities to which they are linked – they lend land, they consume energy and, in some cases, they generate their own renewable energy and export it back into the grid. To enhance this connectivity and optimize their power grid, ports are accelerating digitalization.

Among the port authorities leading the way with green corridors are Rotterdam and Gothenburg, which signed a deal to set up a green corridor between the two Northern European hubs. They plan to establish a common framework for cooperation to stimulate the use of new, alternative fuels. Rotterdam is already one of the first to have launched a barge-to-ship methanol bunkering operation.

Green corridors also represent an opportunity for smaller ports to expand their customer base. At 400 meters long and 61 meters wide, the world’s largest 24K-class container ships stretch the limits of even the world’s largest ports. In future, then, we should expect to see the rise of alternative, shipping routes where cargo is offloaded to smaller container vessels that travel between smaller ports, which have better inland connections and offer more sustainable shipping solutions.

The value of planning and simulating port ecosystems

Green corridors are set to bring about widespread change across the port ecosystem and will require ports and their associated inland infrastructure, including cities, to perform collaborative and integrated urban planning.

Dassault Systèmes’ solutions support this by allowing ports to optimize land planning and link different urban data systems, including energy networks. By bringing all stakeholders within a single platform they can:

  • Make informed decisions for future developments
  • Build and maintain a common data referential for all stakeholders
  • Build and manage a virtual twin of all interrelated port and city infrastructure and systems.

Ports are also turning to Dassault Systèmes’ outcome-based engineering services, whereby they outsource specific projects to us to achieve a desired business outcome. We partner with our customers to understand their specific challenges and identify a solution using industry best practices and the power of virtual twin and simulation technologies on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Through our simulations, they can determine everything from how to optimize logistics flows to where to position 5G signal masts to achieve full signal coverage for their automated cranes.

Collaboration remains key to a low carbon future

To build truly sustainable shipping ecosystems globally, industry leaders recognize that they must work together. New initiatives like the Clean Energy Marine Hubs (CEM-Hubs) aim to scale up the production and adoption of low-carbon fuels through cross-sectoral and public-private partnerships.

“Ports, shipping, and the logistics network need to be an integral part of the global clean energy transition,” said Jean-François Gagné, head of secretariat at the Clean Energy Ministerial.

Others across the marine sector agree too.

According to the Silk Alliance green corridor cluster, set up by the Lloyd’s Register Maritime Decarbonisation Hub, while green corridor initiatives remain in their infancy, the focus should be on collaborating and sharing knowledge to accelerate progress.

“If we accept that the focus of green corridors shouldn’t be limited to the simple substitution [of fuel] in specific routes, and instead work more on how they may branch, pile up, merge, and contribute to systematic changes, then collaboration among green corridors should be the priority,” said the Lloyd’s Register green corridor report. “Joined-up projects with other green corridors in parallel may positively determine or change the direction of green corridor initiatives.”

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