A Tale of Two ‘Cities’

Vision of the Fjords

Last week EDF Europe’s Executive Director, Bryony Worthington attended the Global Maritime Forum in Hong Kong while our Senior Legal Manager, Aoife O’Leary attended the Maritime Hydrogen Conference in Florø, Norway. These two places are worlds apart in not just their geography but also in the content of the conferences. Yet they are the two ends of the solution that need to join in order for international shipping to decarbonise.

First: Florø

Florø is actually a tiny village on the Western coast of Norway. Getting there involved a three-hour ferry ride along the beautiful fjords. Sadly, this ferry was your traditional heavy oil fueled variety. However, on the first night of the conference we travelled on the Vision of the Fjords: a hybrid vessel, run mainly on battery (picture below). It was not just a beautiful journey but so virtually silent– a side benefit of the coming switch to zero emission vessels that’s little talked about.

Vision of the Fjords

The conference itself was jam-packed with enthusiasts for hydrogen and other solutions to reduce shipping’s environmental impact. We heard about fuel cells from all over the world, the hydrogen ferry being built in Scotland and of course from the Norwegian government with its plan to only allow zero emission vessels in the fjords from 2026. There was lots to be learnt on the technical side from all the experts in the room but the real take away was the enthusiasm and complete confidence that the transition is already happening in shipping – not that it will happen in a few decades.

Aoife Selfie Maritime Hydrogen Conference

Aoife, taking a selfie at the Marine Hydrogen Conference in Florø

Second: Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world, handling hundreds of vessels daily departing for all corners of the world. It was an appropriate place to hold the Global Maritime Forum, known as the Davos of Shipping. One of the main items that resulted from the Forum was a declaration signed by 34 shipping CEOs moving firmly behind the decarbonisation of international shipping. They committed to leading by example, using ambitious but achievable evidence-based goals to harness innovation in both technology and business models to drive this transition. EDF were delighted to support the initiative. The new Sulphur limits on fuel coming into force in 2020 dominated the talk among the CEOs. However, it was clear that, in relation to the transition to low carbon fuels, shipping CEOs want early clarity about what they will be expected to deliver and which mechanisms will be used to make cleaner solutions commercially viable. One particularly interesting aspect of the Forum was the interest in having zero emissions deep-sea vessels available for purchase by 2030. Ocean going vessels are seen as the hardest nut to crack since their fuel demand is so high and yet, since they face little to no competition from other transport modes, there is a genuine opportunity to kick start innovation in this part of the industry. Conversations started in the Forum on this topic look certain to continue through the coming months with a view to influencing discussions in the International Maritime Organization next year.

Global Maritime Forum

Kitack Lim, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization speaking in Hong Kong at the Global Maritime Forum


The International Maritime Organization, the UN body responsible for international shipping, decided in April this year to reduce emissions from shipping by 50% by 2050, compared to 2008. This has been described as a very ambitious goal, indeed even being called the Paris Agreement for Shipping. After the exchanges EDF has had in these two very different parts of the world, we have never been more sure that this goal can be achieved. New technologies are already being developed, as can be seen in Florø. And many in the industry are ready for the challenge, as they pledged in Hong Kong. All that is needed now are the right policies to unlock this potential and support shipping’s move into its clean, silent and sustainable zero-carbon future.