In a keynote address at London International Shipping Week on Wednesday, the CEO of number-two ocean carrier MSC described shipping as a “force for good” and urged his colleagues to highlight the industry’s successes.
“We need to keep explaining the real story that shipping is a force for good that has made trade affordable for decades and created prosperity around the world,” said MSC CEO Soren Toft. “Producers who in the past could only serve a local market now have the entire world at their feet.”
However, Toft said that the ocean freight industry has work to do on schedule reliability, which has suffered due to COVID-19 disruption and a massive surge in cargo volume from Asia to the West. He also acknowledged a need to invest in decarbonization.
MSC has committed to decarbonizing its vessel operations, but in June, Toft cast doubt on whether a carbon tax would be a useful way to motivate this transition. A tax on bunkers might not incentivize shipowners to switch, he said, because “scalable long-term [zero-carbon] solutions simply do not currently exist.” Instead of a bunker tax, Toft called for the $2 per tonne R&D levy proposed by the International Chamber of Shipping, which would create a 10-year research program for zero-carbon propulsion research.
At LISW on Wednesday, Toft clarified that MSC supports market-based measures, potentially including carbon pricing for bunkers.
Earlier this year, Toft’s former boss – Soren Skou, CEO of number-one container carrier Maersk Line – proposed a $450 per tonne global bunker tax, the most ambitious call yet from an industry player. Skou asserts that zero carbon solutions do currently exist, and to demonstrate that the technology is available, his company has ordered eight zero-carbon-capable ULCVs from Hyundai Heavy Industries.
Skou recently upped the ante by calling on IMO to set an “end date for fossil-fueled shipping” = a call that MSC did not echo.
“The European Commission is proposing to end production of combustion engine cars in 2035. The International Maritime Organization should do the same for fossil fueled ships with ambitious targets and measures to decarbonize shipping,” Skou said in a social media post Friday.