Major international shipping banks and financial institutions have launched a partnership to support climate change efforts to incentivize decarbonization in the maritime shipping industry.

The Poseidon Principles, unveiled Tuesday, is backed by a who’s who of the lending industry. They prescribe voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible, and call for the industry to reduce total annual GHG emissions using 2008 levels by at least 50% by 2050. 

The principles are designed to become a global framework for assessing and disclosing the climate alignment of financial institutions’ shipping portfolios.

Applicable to lenders and financial guarantors, including export credit agencies, the rules are designed to be implemented in internal policies, procedures and standards, and applied in all credit products secured by vessels that fall under the purview of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The IMO is facing a deadline to implement additional regulations for marine fuels beginning Jan. 20, often called IMO 2020. In 2016 the IMO reaffirmed plansto limit the sulfur content in marine fuels to 0.5% by weight by the beginning of 2020. 

“As banks, we recognize that our role in the shipping industry enables us to promote responsible environmental stewardship throughout the global maritime value chain,” said Citigroup Inc.’s Michael Parker, global industry head of shipping and logistics. He also chaired the drafting committee for the rules. “The Poseidon Principles will not only serve our institutions to improve decision making at a strategic level but will also shape a better future for the shipping industry and our society.”

AP Møller-Mærsk COO Søren Toft noted that a “modern ship is a highly capital-intensive asset with a typical life span of 25-30 years. To deliver on ambitious climate targets, zero-emission vessels will need to enter the fleet by 2030. This leaves us only 10 years to develop the new marine fuels, propulsion technologies and infrastructures that will be required.” Møller-Mærsk is considered the world’s largest container shipping company.

The principles are designed to evolve as the IMO adjusts its policies and regulations, and they can change later if other adverse environmental and social impacts are identified. They also aim to support other global initiatives developed to address, among other things, climate, environment and social risks for banking, energy transitions  and financial disclosures.

Lloyd’s Register was the only classification society involved in the writing the principles. CEO Alastair Marsh said “zero-emission vessels must enter the fleet by 2030 at the latest if the maritime industry is to successfully meet the IMO ambitions of at least 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. 

“The 2020s will be a critical decade for not only piloting and prototyping new fuel types and energy sources but also building future fuel supply chains.”

A common baseline in the principles quantitatively assess and disclose whether financial institutions’ lending portfolios are in line with adopted climate goals.

Societe Generale Corp.’s Paul Taylor, global head of shipping and offshore, served as deputy chair of the drafting committee. The rules, he said, “offer significant benefits to the global shipping industry and society and they allow us as banks to align and de-risk our portfolios in line with shipping’s green transition.”

In addition to Citigroup, Møller-Mærsk, Lloyd’s and Societe Generale, founding signatories representing around 20% of the global ship finance portfolio include DNB ASA, ABN Amro, Amsterdam Trade Bank, Credit Agricole CIB, Danish Ship Finance, Danske Bank, DVB, ING and Nordea. Additional banks are expected to join in the near future, including Asian banks, the group announced.

“The Poseidon Principles are a pioneering initiative by international shipping banks, one of the key stakeholders of the maritime transport sector, to support the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy,” said Credit Agricole chief investment banker Thibaud Escoffier, global head of ship finance. 

The principles were developed by Citi, Societe Generale, and DNB along with industry players Møller Mærsk, Cargill, Euronav, Lloyd’s and Watson Farley & Williams. Support was provided by the Global Maritime Forum, Rocky Mountain Institute and University College London Energy Institute.

This is not the first time the IMO has searched for measures to decrease carbon emissions. In 2013, the organization named DNV GL to "identify the necessary conditions" needed to successfully shift to liquefied natural gas for fueling ships in the IMO-designated North American Emissions Control Area.