Saturday, 26 April 2008

Dithering governments blamed for biofuel tanker shortage

A Stolt tanker. Biodiesel must be carried on specially built vessels. Photograph: Alamy

Britain is facing a big shortage of ships for carrying biofuels unless politicians give clear guidelines about the future of renewable fuels, a leading maritime organisation warned last night.

The comments from Lloyd's Register that the world fleet might be "unable to cope" unless an extra 400 suitable vessels - 20% of the present fleet - were constructed, came after energy minister Malcolm Wicks questioned the use of biofuels at a time of rising food prices.

Richard Sadler, chief executive of Lloyd's Register, said more information was needed about the potentially destructive elements of first-generation biofuels, but second and third-generation looked highly promising and could trigger huge demand for transport.

Mixed messages from governments about whether they will stick to targets for biofuel use were creating problems, he said. "There is so much uncertainty that makes it very difficult for a shipowner to invest in a sector with so much political risk."

Biodiesel must be carried on special chemical carriers, but Sadler said the regulations may need to be changed so that it can be moved on oil tankers. He added: "If second- and third-generation technologies are successful, current projections of demand would see the world fleet unable to cope with the logistics demand."

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