Question: Mr Boehmann, in a speech you gave at the annual general meeting of Hapag-Lloyd you said: "As long as the shipping industry's only goal is to move more and more containers every year, it hasn't found its moral compass." What could or should the shipping industry's moral compass look like?
Answer: The shipping industry often points to the convenient fact that it is not explicitly mentioned in the Paris Agreement. But its emissions are real, and they accelerate the climate crisis, as do those of all other industries. There is no way around decarbonisation if we want to prevent man-made global warming from exceeding 1.5 °C. Net emissions from ships must be reduced; relative emission savings per TEU are mere eyewash.
Ultimately shipowners need to realise that their business model is just as dependent on functional ecosystems as all others. What is more, especially all those who have benefited from half-hearted environmental laws and climate-damaging policies for a long time should now be held to account. There cannot be any more excuses.
Question: Do you believe that the IMO roadmap for decarbonising shipping is helpful? Or is everything moving too slowly?
Answer: Germany is slow. The EU is slow. The IMO roadmap is disastrously short-sighted. A 50 per cent reduction of emissions by 2050 is a declaration of bankruptcy, considering the fact that we actually need to achieve zero emissions by that year. We cannot afford any further delays.
Question: Are there any feasible technology solutions at all for truly clean ships? And how should shipowners handle the investments?
Answer: Yes, there are solutions, but similar to automobiles there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Synfuels, green hydrogen, batteries and wind must all be custom-tailored to individual ship types. For thousands of years mankind transported goods solely with wind propulsion. Of course we cannot just replace today's gigantic containerships with windjammers, but wind will have its place in the future of shipping.
For decades the sector has profited from being able to burn industrial waste in the form of bunker oil – decades during which the climate crisis was a known fact. Pretending to be surprised by the development now is not credible. Governments must subsidise research into, and development of CO2-neutral propulsion technologies. Ultimately shipowners, merchants, governments and consumers will bear the costs jointly – and the cause will be worth it.
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