Blog: What does the Net Zero Strategy mean for Maritime?

By: Ben Murray

Chief Executive
020 7417 2837



The Government yesterday (19 October) published its Net Zero Strategy, entitled 'Build Back Greener'. The intention of the document is to set out in further detail the Government's ambitions to deliver its Net Zero agenda. 


In terms of maritime, there are a number of key points worth noting: 

  • 'Maritime' is mentioned 33 times throughout the document, whilst 'shipping' is mentioned 66 times and 'green ships' is mentioned once. This shows that maritime is very much a core element of the Government's Net Zero ambitions. 
  • Encouragingly, the document states: "We will build on our strong maritime heritage and the success of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition to deliver a more ambitious multiyear programme for the sector...Building on the success of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, we will be extending this to a multi-year programme, delivering real-world demonstrations and technology trials of clean maritime vessels and infrastructure to decarbonise the maritime sector. This is part of our commitment to a UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions." 
  • This has clearly been heavily influenced by the thinking reflected in the Maritime UK proposals as part of the upcoming Spending Review, which was structured around a very similar ask. This suggests the bid has been positively received. 
  • However, the document does not include any indication of how much funding/investment will be provided to any such continuation of the CMDC. This should be further clarified through the Spending Review, which is scheduled for 27 October. 
  • The document also sets out a 'Key Commitment' to: "Plot a course to net zero for the UK domestic maritime sector, phase out the sale of new non-zero emission domestic shipping vessels and accelerate the development of zero emission technology and infrastructure in the UK. We will engage with industry to explore establishing a UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UKSHORE) to transform the UK into a global leader in the design and manufacturing of clean maritime technology."
  • In the section entitled: 'Our 2050 vision and how we get there', there are six policy commitments set out in terms of maritime: 

  1. We will plot a course to net zero for the UK domestic maritime sector, with indicative targets from 2030 and net zero as early as is feasible. We will establish, after public consultation in 2022, an ambitious ‘Course to Zero’. Following consultation, we will establish ambitious indicative targets and embed this course in our Clean Maritime Plan.  
  2. We will consult on a potential phase-out date for the sale of new non-zero emission domestic vessels. Following the conclusion of the current Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition and the Course to Zero consultation, we will consult in mid-2022 on the potential for accelerated decarbonisation through carefully designed, well signposted measures to phase out the sale of new, nonzero emission domestic vessels.  
  3. We are assessing how economic instruments could be used to accelerate the decarbonisation of the domestic maritime sector. Building on Maritime 2050, the Clean Maritime Plan and our published research, we will further investigate the use of economic instruments to drive decarbonisation.  
  4. We will extend the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation to the maritime sector. Following consultation earlier this year, we will make renewable fuels of non-biological origin used in shipping eligible for incentives under the RTFO.  
  5. This year we will be consulting on the appropriate steps to support and, if needed, mandate the uptake of shore power in the UK. We will consult in winter 2021 on how government can support wider deployment of shore power, including potential regulatory interventions, for both vessels and ports.  
  6. We are accelerating the development of zero emission technology and infrastructure in the UK. We have launched the £20 million Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC) to fund feasibility studies and technology trials. We will engage with industry to explore establishing a UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK-SHORE) in cooperation with UKRI and Innovative UK. UK-SHORE aims to transform the UK into a global leader in the design and manufacturing of clean maritime technology  

  • Additionally, there is a commitment to "additional measures to promote the uptake of low carbon fuels in the freight, maritime and aviation sectors and we will work with stakeholders to develop a longer-term low carbon fuel strategy for the deployment of low carbon fuels across different transport modes to 2050." 
  • More broadly, the document re-confirms that "UK aviation and shipping will achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Ahead of that, our domestic lead will act as a showcase to the world and bolster our call to action internationally, where cooperation and collaboration through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), will continue to be vital to decarbonise these industries." 
  • The document sets out an ambition that: "The UK will play an important role in developing zero emission maritime technology, such as alternative fuel powered vessels using ammonia or methanol produced from low carbon hydrogen, or highly efficient batteries, particularly where we can build on domestic expertise to capture early market share." 
  • There is a broad commitment to achieving a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035, including international aviation and shipping. 
  • Led by Shadow BEIS Secretary Ed Miliband, the Labour Party's response to both the Net Zero Strategy and the Heat and Buildings Strategy, which was also published today, has focused on the criticism that the Government's plans lack ambition in terms of scale of investment. Mr Miliband stated in his response in the House of Commons that there is "still a chasm with this Government between rhetoric and reality." Mr Miliband also focused on whether the document meets the 6th carbon budget 2035, tweeting: "Once again there is a chasm between the grand promises and the appalling weakness in delivery."


Overall, the Net Zero Strategy includes a strong focus on maritime as one of the key sectors through which the Government's Net Zero ambitions will be delivered. The inclusion of a reference to a multi-year extension of the CMDC is very positive, as this is the core of Maritime UK's Spending Review bid. However, the Net Zero Strategy does not give any indication of the scale or the exact figures of any such investment. Based on the Government's previous actions and stated preferences, it is highly likely that any further investment will be focused on unlocking private investment, rather than large-scale commitment of public funds.