Gradually switching to biofuels could provide new business opportunities throughout the fuel supply chain. For example, fuel bunker companies would be the most likely candidates to blend biofuels with marine fuels. All major European ports or bunker stations have biofuel production facilities nearby.
According to the study's authors, the main barriers to making these changes and accelerating the introduction of marine biofuels lie in market incentives, which are not coordinated among EU member countries. The EU's Renewable Energy Directive, for example, sets required targets for the use of renewable fuels in transportation, which includes shipping. However, EU members can implement the directive somewhat differently from one another in their national legislation. This can lead to variations in preferred offsets for renewable fuels in road transport.
Biofuels are not addressed in current shipping legislation, the study said. Also, the European-level legislation that complements global rules can be confusing. In addition to the Renewable Energy Directive, there are restrictions on the sulphur content of marine fuels. These restrictions are specified in the international MARPOL Convention.
Anouk Florentinus, project manager at Ecofys, said in a press release on the study:
If sulphur restrictions for marine fuels are tightened, biofuels triumph as they contain no sulphur. Their biodegradability also reduces the risk of marine pollution in case of spills. These advantages are not yet well reflected in current legislation. Introducing biofuels as a sustainable alternative fuel can change the current fuel supply chain completely. We have already seen this for road transport; we see this in current developments in aviation, and are certain this can also create new opportunities in the shipping sector.