Published on 14/09/2023
Oil tanker at sea
  • The UK National Clean Maritime Research Hub aims to improve the environmental impact of the UK’s maritime sector
  • Aston University’s Patricia Thornley will head up the hub’s policy unit
  • The hub includes more than 50 industrial partners and 25 academics

Aston University’s Patricia Thornley is to lead the policy unit of the UK National Clean Maritime Research Hub (UK-MaRes Hub), which launched on 14 September 2023 at London Shipping Week.

Led by Durham University, the UK-MaRes Hub aims to reduce air pollution, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, boats and ports, reducing the environmental impact of the maritime sector in the UK. The hub will focus on ports and their role in improving their environmental performance, and the associated socioeconomic benefits, including a boost to economic activity and social benefits experienced by those working in or living near the ports. This will provide a differentiator for the UK maritime industry.

The Hub was announced by the UK Government’s Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Maritime Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton as part of a new package of clean maritime measures – the Clean Maritime Day package. They were joined by the Director of the UK-MaRes Hub, Professor Tony Roskilly, Chair of Energy Systems in the Department of Engineering at Durham University.

The policy unit will provide advice and evidence for policymakers, informed by Patricia’s expertise and her work at Aston University’s Energy and Bioproducts Research Institute (EBRI). EBRI leads nationally on the production, characterisation, testing and verification of low carbon fuels, combining -depth scientific expertise with broader systems thinking and environmental sustainability track record to support industrial and transport decarbonisation. 

The unit will provide policy briefings and papers and will work with the CMRP, policy experts, the Department for Transport (DfT), the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) and local government to support a rapid transition to a clean maritime sector.

Patricia said:

“In this project, we will focus on identifying and verifying the achievable carbon reductions from introduction of different low carbon fuels in the maritime sector and examining the environmental trade-offs. We will particularly work on translating the insights from that analysis for policymakers and working with them to ensure a supportive enabling environment for decarbonising the maritime sector.”

The UK National Clean Maritime Research Hub project will last for 43 months, and will involve also 25 academics from the universities of Durham, Nottingham, Brighton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Cranfield, Ulster, Sheffield, St Andrews, Newcastle and Southampton Solent, and more than 50 industrial partners.

The UK maritime sector is responsible for around 3.4% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, particularly of nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and particulate matters. It is anticipated that the annual global market for maritime emission reduction technologies could reach US$15 billion by 2050. This could provide significant economic opportunities for the UK, with the possibility to exploit the UK’s fundamental research expertise in areas such as hydrodynamics, fuels, combustion, power electronics, batteries and fuel cells, energy systems and safety engineering. The UK National Clean Maritime Research Hub will conduct interdisciplinary research in these areas, to contribute to the 2050 net zero goal.

Patricia said:

“The UK has made great progress on decarbonising our electricity sector and bioenergy has particularly supported decarbonising the road transport and heat sectors. However, emissions from the maritime sector remain significant and so EBRI is keen to apply our knowledge and experience of low carbon fuels to tackling the challenges in decarbonising the maritime sector as part of this new hub. Of course, these challenges are not just technical and so having the right enabling environment, regulations and incentives is absolutely critical to progress. As the lead for the clean maritime policy unit I am looking forward to working with partners and wider stakeholders to support a policy environment that will accelerate decarbonisation and wider sustainability benefits in the sector.”

Baroness Vere said: 

“The UK maritime sector is a world leader in green shipping practices but the journey towards a fully decarbonised sector by 2050 requires us to continue innovating, pushing forward and building on that status. With the world’s mariners focusing on London this week, it’s fantastic to once again show how the UK continues to be a driving force in the industry through our new Clean Maritime Day package.”

Notes for editors

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston University is a long established university led by its three main beneficiary groups – students, business and the professions, and the West Midlands region and wider society. Located in Birmingham at the heart of a vibrant city, the campus houses all the University’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Aleks Subic is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

In 2022 Aston University was ranked in the top 25 of the Guardian University Guide, based on measures including entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. The Aston Business School MBA programme was ranked in the top 100 in the world in the Economist MBA 2021 ranking.

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