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Mapping the route towards zero-emission shipping

Focusing on the bunkering logistics of cleaner fuels, the ZEEDS initiative is a concrete example of how the maritime industry can play its part in meeting the climate targets set out by the Paris Agreement.


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Introduced in June 2019, the Wärtsilä-led ZEEDS (Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea) initiative was set up by six forward-leaning companies to accelerate the shift towards zero-emission shipping. The coalition aims to address challenges related especially to the supply, storage, and distribution of clean, alternative fuels.

“Imagine a network of clean energy hubs placed near the world’s busiest shipping lanes, capable of supplying and distributing clean fuels to the world’s fleet. It sounds ambitious, but if we are truly serious about managing climate change, we need big ideas and bold action,” says ZEEDS spokesperson Cato Esperø, Sales Director for Wärtsilä’s Marine Business, Nordics and Baltics.

He acknowledges that achieving zero-emission shipping represents an enormous challenge but insists that every idea the ZEEDS partners have so far explored is grounded in existing technologies.

“Different ideas present various technical and engineering challenges, but this is not beyond the strong capabilities of our industry. We believe that achieving zero-emission shipping is not only possible, but necessary,” Esperø states, adding that cooperation and transparency between partners are integral to the formation of a smarter, cleaner maritime ecosystem and a sustainable bunkering infrastructure for the ships of tomorrow.

Transparent collaboration

Besides Wärtsilä, the ZEEDS coalition includes the offshore engineering and technology company Aker Solutions, the energy company Equinor, the shipping and logistics company DFDS, the ship owner and operator Grieg Star, as well as Kvaerner, a specialist in engineering, procurement, and construction.

Matthew Duke, CEO at Grieg Star, says that the biggest revelation of the project has been how the knowledge and technology related to zero-emission shipping are already here, and not just in the distant future.

“Of course, we need to test that the different technologies will work together as planned, but that is still far better than having to come up with something completely new. Also, it has been astounding to see how these companies and people have so willingly shared their knowledge with us,” Duke enthuses.

Considering the future success of the initiative, Duke says that it is necessary to attract even more partners to share their expertise.

“We need support from authorities and genuine interest from investors. If we manage to prove the concept in Northern Europe, it should be possible to replicate in most parts of the world. If so, we will have come a long way.”

“If we are truly serious about managing climate change, we need big ideas and bold action.”

A diverse range of partners

In the view of Margaret Mistry, Strategy & Innovation Manager at Equinor, the most valuable experience of the project has been hearing the different perspectives of partners and understanding how it is important to listen to the shipowner’s needs when tackling the challenge of moving from vision to reality.

“As an offshore wind and energy provider, as well as having our own fleet of supply vessels and a large shipping customer, Equinor has an interest in all aspects of the project. At Equinor, we already have some initiatives looking at potential growth in offshore wind and the future of hydrogen and ammonia, as well as shipping technology development,” Mistry says.

She sees that ZEEDS has the potential to provide focus and tangible business opportunities for the various protagonists actively seeking ways of creating a new “blue economy” in the ocean.

“As the next step, the initiative needs to work on some pilot projects to demonstrate how this future value chain could work,” Mistry points out.

Cato Esperø says that the project has already generated a lot of publicity and contacts from various prospective partners. Accelerating the transition to clean fuels and a new energy infrastructure requires broad collaboration between stakeholders also outside shipping, from governments and regulators to port authorities and cities.

“So far, the response has been even better than expected, and we are excited to see all the potential business perspectives and unique views that different operators can offer,” Esperø concludes.

“We are excited to see all the potential business perspectives and unique views that different operators can offer.”


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