Suggested citation: Ghosh, Nilanshu, Abhinav Soman, Harsimran Kaur, and Himani Jain. 2023. Decarbonising Shipping Vessels in Indian Waterways through Clean Fuel. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
In India, the waterways sector comprising coastal shipping and inland waterways is a crucial economic contributor, adding up to USD 1.6 billion (INR 13,007 crore) as gross value added (GVA) in FY20. In this study, we assess the potential of two clean technologies – LNG and solar-assisted electric boats – in reducing emissions from the Inland Water Transport (IWT) sector and coastal shipping. Further, we explore the market potential that may arise from a transition to these clean fuel technologies by 2030.
The waterways sector in India, which comprises coastal shipping and inland waterways transport, is a crucial economic contributor, adding up to USD 1.6 billion (INR 13,007 crore) as gross value added (GVA) in FY20. The government has implemented various initiatives like the Sagarmala Programme, National Waterways Act, and Inland Vessels Bill to develop the waterways sector and enable a modal shift. However, these policies have a limited focus on the clean fuel transition.
In India, around 2,000 vessels cater to passenger demand and 1,600 vessels enable cargo movement on inland waterways, consuming about 1,200 lakh litres of fuel as of 2019. The estimated emissions of the inland waterways transport (IWT) sector stand at about 277,000 tonnes of CO2 (tCO2) as of 2019. Around 970 coastal shipping vessels operate as of 2019 in India, accounting for 1.6 million tonnes of fuel oil consumption and 5.1 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) of emissions.
Government policies envision the annual cargo movement and the passenger movement to increase by almost three times between 2019 and 2030. The subsequent growth in fuel consumption and emissions will counteract the growth, necessitating adequate measures to avert these negative externalities.
Globally, measures have been taken to reduce emissions from shipping, with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announcing the ambitious target of reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 2008. In accordance with this target, alternate fuels, namely, ammonia, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquid biofuel, methanol, and electricity are being actively explored by the shipping industry.
In this study, we assess the potential of two clean technologies - LNG and solar-assisted electric boats – in reducing emissions from the IWT sector and coastal shipping. We consider the target of retrofitting 100 per cent of cargo vessels operating on both coastal and inland waterways with LNG systems by 2030, to estimate the maximum potential of a clean fuel transition. For the passenger ferries operating on inland waterways, we assume a 100 per cent transition to solar-assisted electric boats.
IWT passenger and cargo segment: To abate a threefold increase in fuel consumption and, consequently, in emissions, we review the potential impacts of transitioning to LNG in the cargo segment and electric boats in ferries.
Figure ES 1 Transitioning to LNG and solar-assisted electric boats can reduce emissions and increase the market size for the IWT segment
Source: Authors’ analysis
Coastal shipping vessels: To reduce the estimated 1.2 - fold growth in residual and distillate oil consumption in coastal shipping vessels by 2030, we review the impact of a potential LNG transition. Assuming 100 per cent of ships are retrofitted with LNG systems by 2030, an emissions reduction of around 13 per cent and a 30 per cent market size increase can be achieved when compared to the 2030 BAU scenario.
Figure ES 2 Retrofitting cargo ships with LNG system by 2030 can increase market size by 30 per cent and reduce the emissions by 13 per cent
Source: Authors’ analysis
We found a systemic gap and lack of cohesive policy support in adopting alternative fuels:
This brief identifies several criteria that need to be considered when choosing an appropriate fuel mix and the consequent impact on emissions. However, a detailed techno-economic analysis is required to compare more nascent alternatives, including methanol, biofuels, and ammonia. The momentum built in transitioning to low-carbon fuels in road transport should be leveraged through cohesive policies to decarbonise the waterways sector in India.