Shipping in Changing Climates.

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


Our vision is to create an enduring, multidisciplinary and independent research community strongly linked to industry and capable of informing the policy making process by developing new knowledge and understanding on the subject of the shipping system, its energy efficiency and emissions, and its transition to a low carbon, more resilient future.
Shipping in Changing Climates (SCC) is the embodiment of that vision: a multi-university, multi-disciplinary consortium of leading UK academic institutions focused on addressing the interconnected research questions that arise from considering shipping's possible response over the next few decades due to changes in:
- climate (sea level rise, storm frequency)
- regulatory climate (mitigation and adaptation policy)
- macroeconomic climate (increased trade, differing trade patterns, higher energy prices)
Building on RCUK Energy programme's substantial (~2.25m) investment in this area: Low Carbon Shipping and High Seas projects, this research will provide crucial input into long-term strategic planning (commercial and policy) for shipping, in order to enable the sector to transition the next few decades with minimum disruption of the essential global services (trade, transport, economic growth, food and fuel security) that it provides.
The ambitious research programme can only be undertaken because of the project's excellent connection to shipping's stakeholders across the govt. non-govt and industry space. This is demonstrated by in excess of 35 organisations writing significant statements of support and including contributions to the project of 1.6m in-kind and 160k cash. The commitments of stakeholders with this breadth of knowledge and understanding is crucial both to:
- Development of a relevant proposal (all Tier 1 partners of LCS and many Tier 2 and others were heavily involved in the development of the contents of this SCC proposal)
- Ensuring that the research is undertaken using data and experience that can maximise its credibility, but importantly also
- Guaranteeing a direct pathway to impact in all the key governance and commercial stakeholders of the sector.
Shipping is a global industry and its challenges must therefore be considered in a global context. However, to provide focus for the research we will concentrate the application of our global modelling and analysis for understanding the impacts of changing climates on three key specific sub- global components of the system: UK, SIDS (Small Island Developing States) and BRICS shipping. The UK, for its importance to the funder and the UK stakeholders engaged in our project, the BRICS and SIDS because of their central role in the policy debate due to their high sensitivity to changing climates
Research Excellence will be ensured through research across three interacting research themes:
- ship as a system (understanding the scope for greater supply side energy efficiency)
- trade and transport demand (understanding the trends and drivers for transport demand)
- transitions and evolution (understanding transport supply/demand interactions)
The research undertaken will be both quantitative and qualitative, apply for the first time new data and modelling techniques and be deployed to answer a series of cross cutting (themes) research questions.
Shipping in Changing Climates will put the UK at the forefront internationally of research into the shipping system and inform the UK and EU debates around the control of its shipping GHG emissions.

Planned Impact

Since 2010, three RCUK Energy programme funded research projects: LCS, HS and Decarbonising the Maritime Supply Chain (totalling ~£2.5m) have been undertaking research on the carbon emissions of the shipping industry. The timing coincided with dramatic new policy and commercial developments in the sector and led to immediate interest from a broad range of stakeholders. Partly due to previous underfunding, the UK's shipping stakeholders found, for the first time, academic partners who were undertaking research with a broad 'systems approach' and interest in collaborative working. Unlike equally important more narrowly focused mono-disciplinary research, these new research projects enabled stakeholders to see outside their silos and to gain new knowledge and understanding (demonstrated through our statements of support). The consequence of this timing/capability coincidence is that in just three years these research projects gained wide recognition for their work and quickly became world-class (outputs have already been implemented in IMO, UNEP, UK and EU policy debates and leading publications). To build on these firm foundations, this proposal brings together outputs from two of the three projects (totalling £2.25m value) overlapping in their interest in whole system analyses of the future trends and trajectories of commercial shipping, and their complimentary research strengths.
This proposed activity has multiple potential economic benefits for both the short term (data and analysis for more rigorous and evidence-based commercial decisions) and medium to long term (awareness of future impacts due to climate change, mitigation and adaptation, and tools to assess the sensitivity and significance of these phenomena to UK business' strategic thinking):
- The UK consumer: an island nation, we are dependent on an efficient and resilient shipping system for the import and export of food, fuel and manufactured products. In the immediate and short-term, this work willroduce understanding essential for policy driven and voluntary energy efficiency initiatives, which can offset the inflationary pressures of any rising fuel costs as well as ensuring that UK trade is minimally disadvantaged and remains competitive in a globalised economy. Evidenced by work done for the UK CCC, IMO (see letters of support).
- Ship owners and operators: the UK hosts a number of companies that own and operate ships. All face a subdued market, higher energy costs and the prospect of carbon pricing. Our research will produce the data and analysis needed by these companies to help them invest in the right technical and operational interventions and to buy ships which can remain competitive in spite of changing climates. Evidenced by existing work with SEAaT, UK Chamber and Shell (see letters of support).
- Shipping equipment manufacturers: whilst the UK can no longer claim to be a major shipbuilding nation, it hosts a number of companies that manufacture shipping equipment (machinery, engines etc) for global markets. These companies need data and analysis to help plan research and development programmes for new products. Role in ETI's multi-million pound heavy-duty vehicle programme (see letter of support).
- Shipping support services: the presence of the IMO, and London's legal and financial expertise have meant that the UK remains a world leading centre for shipping business. Voyages are fixed by UK brokers, ships are sold and financed by UK banks, not to mention insurance, legal services and the classification society Lloyd's Register. The turbulence created by the current market has led to an increased interest in more sophisticated data and modelling techniques to produce supporting evidence for these multi-million pound transactions. Evidenced by existing work with MSI, KPMG and CWR (see letters of support).