Asia-Pacific Maritime meet 2024 in Singapore surpasses expectations

The latest edition of the Asia-Pacific Maritime Conference and Event (APM) 2024 surpassed all expectations in delegates attending the event. The mammoth conference held at the upscale Marina Bay Sands Conference Centre saw close to 16,000 attendees spanned over three days. They discussed issues for reinventing the face of shipping. The attendee figure represents the rebound from the COVID pandemic and the importance of the maritime to Asia. It once again solidified Singapore’s position as the leading maritime hub in the world. Also stealing the show were the vast armies of exhibitors and an enviable gaggle of industry speakers, assembled to debate this year’s theme of “Future of Vessels, Solutions for Tomorrow”.

All in all, it was but a response to the industry’s all-consuming need that something must be done to beat climate change coupled with its attendant greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions.

Punit Oza of Maritime NXT & International

"It fills me with great pleasure to be back at APM as a conference speaker. Participating in this edition was particularly humbling because I was able to meet many global exhibitors and speakers, all from diverse backgrounds. They offered various perspectives on the maritime industry's future," said Punit Oza, Founder, of Maritime NXT & International Vice President, Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. "What stood out to me was the urgent need for decarbonization. The topic took center stage at APM 2024, with leaders coming forward to discuss solutions that will drive the industry's net-zero target. I'm glad to have been part of the conversations and look forward to more.”

Decarbonization Challenge

As had been in past debates, the need for decarbonization never ceases.

The discourses have mostly been on the technologies and innovations, and about digitalization. Noticeably gratifying are the commitments by maritime industry officials for changes to the business as usual. Getting alternative fuels off the ground, having more energy-efficient operations or securing good ship design, were topical themes.

“A near impossible task”, was what was heard by a conference delegate on prospects for meeting IMO GHG in the near term. Getting some 30 to 40% of the estimated annual global supply of carbon-neutral fuels is no mean feat. Crucially, what was pointed out was for the shipping industry to meet emissions goals with financial sustainability, a theme rarely touched on at the three-day conference. Nor were there any animated discussions on carbon capture technologies, and how port technologies will pan out over the years and decades, ahead. That said, a session titled 'Accelerating Green and Smart Ports Development through Ecosystem Development' called for eco-friendly infrastructures, technology integration, and ecosystems to develop green and smart ports.

With the drive for multi-fuel coupled with electric solutions, a question begging for answers is just where would the conventional bunker industry now be headed? What will happen to the bunker infrastructure now in place? And will there be new kinds of training for multi-fuel traders a new P&I price regime and new price tabulations for the new era of fuels to come?

Such considerations will certainly seize and loom large in the matrix of a nation with the bunkering dynamo like Singapore, and where ammonia and methanol have been touted as the clearest alternatives.

Even as it was not discussed at the meetings, collaboration holds the key to ‘completing’ the cycle of decarbonization solutions.

Shipping Corridor Agreements

For its part, Singapore has initialed shipping corridor agreements with various nations as well as an informal arrangement known as the Silk Alliance. These endeavors aim to encourage energy transition and as can be gleaned, there are more than 40 of such agreements.

Those initiatives were never discussed at the latest conclave of the Asia-Pacific Meet for what could be expected is a ‘high-octane’ debate on multi-fuels meant for vessels and ports.

But as could be gleaned from a report from Argus Media, “The main deadlock to making green corridors operational remains, as it is unclear who will bear the burden of higher fuel costs, given the large price gap between conventional and alternative marine fuels, said the chief technology officer for energy and fuels at Denmark's Mærsk McKinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon Shipping Torben Norgaard.”

Continued the report “Right now green corridors are primarily in the initiation and planning stages with operational green corridors on the horizon," [declared] the head of decarbonization at the UK-based Sustainable Shipping Initiative Andreea Miu. "Getting to that stage will depend on stakeholders working together to make concrete investments to enable the corridor."

Developing bunkering infrastructure, building or retrofitting vessels that can run on the chosen alternative fuels, along training seafarers in the handling of new fuels, are some of the initiatives that the investments should be aimed at, Miu added.

But more importantly, it is a "coalition of the willing who are willing and able to work together and operate in a very specific economy where they avoid too much interference", that is needed to enable the green shipping corridors, Norgaard said.

APM 2024 Delivered a Strong Showing From Exhibitors

The exhibition floor was a kaleidoscope of product launches, forging of partnerships, announcements, and ‘formidable’ networking sessions.

The development of green shipping captured the attention of attendees. Weichai¸ one of the world's largest automobile and equipment manufacturers, unveiled its next-generation WH17, a new high-end marine engine designed to redefine marine propulsion standards. Exhibitor Aage Hempel Group boosted its Asian presence with a range of ultra-modern maritime services and solutions, and Jotun showed how it can help maintain a clean, unblemished ship hull.

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