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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

As Prepared: Aspen Decarbonization Workshop Remarks

Tuesday, November 8, 2022






Thank you, Ingrid for the warm welcome today.  

On behalf of the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration, I am so happy to be here today to kickstart this collective commitment and progress toward a greener maritime future.  

This last year represents a truly an unprecedented time at MARAD, throughout the Department of Transportation, and in the maritime industry.  

We are administering a series of once-in-a-generation investments to meet this extraordinary moment in history when Americans are talking at their dinner tables about “supply chains” and “ocean shipping” – and even green shipping and decarbonization - and seeing, perhaps for the first time, the critical role that the maritime sector plays in moving the goods on which our economy depends.   

Last week we announced more than $703 million to fund 41 projects in 22 states and one territory that will improve port facilities through the Maritime Administration’s Port Infrastructure Development Program. The funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and additional Congressional appropriations, will benefit coastal seaports, Great Lakes ports, and inland river ports, helping improve supply chain reliability through increased port capacity and resilience, more efficient operations, reduced port emissions, and new workforce opportunities. Together, these investments will help get goods to shelves faster and lower costs for American families. Our job is to get these investments to work in our ports and waterways as quickly as possible—and to do so with thought and deliberation, to ensure these investments strengthen the resilience of the US maritime transportation system —including addressing the disproportionate effects of environmental impacts on low-income communities and disadvantaged communities  

Creating a stronger and more resilient supply chain for the nation has been a key focus for the President who issued an Executive Order on Supply Chains in February 2021 and stood up a Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, co-chaired by Secretary Buttigieg in July 2021. The Administration, supported by Secretary Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation has engaged in near-term actions to address supply chain disruptions and now, with investments like this one, are working to create the infrastructure for a stronger, more resilient supply chain for the long term. 

We believe we have a moment, a moment to drive meaningful change in the maritime industry.  This workshop and you, as participants, convene today to identify key opportunities and expose and understand challenges to advance the America’s decarbonization goals. From where we stand today, achieving the Biden Administration’s climate goals and the International Maritime Organization’s target of 50% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050 from 2008 levels requires greater partnership between federal government and industry to achieve these goals. 

Navigating Together Toward a Clean-Power Maritime Industry 

Decarbonization remains a high priority for the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration. The movement toward a cleaner, brighter, safer future must be the north star for the United States’ maritime industry.  

And that’s where the Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) Program under the Maritime Administration comes into play. For over 10 years, MARAD’s Office of Environment and Innovation has been supporting RD&T efforts to determine “what works” for the US maritime sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the Office has supported USG policy efforts at IMO and other international collaborations.  

Within the past year alone, META has initiated several innovative studies and demonstration projects, partnering with industry, government agencies, and academia.  Results of these projects will be publicly available on the META webpage in an effort to inform industry and support policy-making. Some examples include: 

-A series of regional studies to assess future low carbon energy options in the Great Lakes and West Coast (other regional studies will follow for the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and inland waterways) 

-A feasibility study for vessel carbon capture and storage with a demonstration to follow 

-Lifecycle emissions analyses and technoeconomic analyses for battery electric vessels 

-A microgrid demonstration project in partnership with a Jones Act carrier at the Port of     Los Angeles 

-A Blue Carbon study at the Port of San Diego 

-Testing of low carbon fuels on US-manufactured marine engines, in partnership with the     DOE and National Labs 

-Updating a previously released vessel energy efficiency guide – an expanding that guide     to include decarbonization; and 

-Development of a user-friendly greenhouse gas emission calculator tool for vessel     owner/operators so they can baseline their emissions, then have a better understanding of     where to make improvements  

At MARAD, as we talk about this critical issue with stakeholders, carriers, shipbuilders, industry, labor we’re inundated with questions about the future direction of future of the maritime transportation decarbonization:  What will be preferred fuel? What are the preferred technologies to use and deliver that fuel? Why can’t we just electrify everything? And why isn’t this happening faster?  

They’re all great questions, and we need to solve them together. 

 However, these, as the most frequently asked questions - do not yet have clear answers. Maritime decarbonization solutions require a shared understanding of the unique needs of industry sectors, and a whole of government approach - with significant input from industry so we can move forward with speed, and with effect while supporting a safe, efficient, and competitive US maritime transportation system. 

 The sector is perhaps the most fragmented and diverse among all of transportation sectors. It is the hardest to abate and the most fuel intensive. Each sub-industry, at sea and ashore, has its own unique fuel and technology needs.  

The industry is ready to make a change, but there is a significant amount of uncertainty related to what fuel or technology is available, has been tested, or works best. At this point, smaller vessels such as tugboats and other small vessels — may have more available solutions in the near term as compared to larger trans-ocean vessels.   Further, those transportation sectors operating within and adjacent to ports also need continued support to propel further emission-reduction advancements.  

 Simply stated, we know there will not be a one size fits all approach, and there is no silver bullet to address decarbonization across the maritime industry. What works on one vessel doesn’t necessarily work on another; even two vessels in the same class may require different solutions based on their operating profiles.  Added to the compatibility and efficacy challenge will be the cost of the new fuels and technologies. 

MARAD’s work (through META and other programs) has led to a simple conclusion: which I pose to you today - the more we work together – from researchers to industry to government – the more we can help stakeholder companies test and decide on the best solutions for their needs and ultimately achieve necessary decarbonization goals.  

So, how are we going to achieve those aims? In our judgment, it will take coordination across multiple federal agencies to facilitate the transition, and, to find incentives to make the transition easier - and more cooperation between stakeholders – technology manufacturers, vessel owner/operators, port and terminal operators to name a few - those along and afield from loading docks – to determine the path to achieve our and the IMO’s goals.  

IN MARAD, we are closely following the public MOU for Decarbonization in Transportation, the following Blueprint, and are working with our sister Federal agencies and stakeholders to develop a Decarbonization Strategy specific to the maritime industry.  

We need your input, your feedback, and your voice in this campaign of learning – and building first a strategy, and then, a path to meet this challenge.  

My challenge and call to action for all of us here today is to begin to chart that course, discuss and determine how can we better align efforts, and partner to develop a collaborative approach. This is an All Hands-on Deck moment -