How Ships are Becoming ‘Greener’ to Cut Emissions

Shipping has the smallest carbon footprint of any means of moving cargo, but the shipping industry still generates around a billion tons of CO2 annually. Which is why both regulators and the shipping industry are looking for new and innovative ways to go green.

Spotlight on Shipping
Although small and remote, the Marshall Islands have a large role in international cargo shipping. The country’s flag flies over the third-largest number of ships in the world, and they are pushing for emissions reduction. The country’s geography leaves it especially vulnerable to rising sea levels.

“It’s a matter of survival for us,” said Tony de Brum, the Marshall Islands’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. “We cannot address climate change without looking at all the components that are contributing to the problem of emissions.”

Earlier this year the Marshall Islands proposed a limit on the amount of carbon emissions the industry could emit to the International Maritime Organization. While the proposed limits were not adopted by the IMO, the proposal has sparked interest in the various ways shipping can become more environmentally friendly.

The simplest way for ships to cut their carbon emission is to slow down. Ships that cut their speed by even a few nautical miles per hour can see a big drop in the amount of fuel needed. Some cargo ships have even cut their fuel usage by more than half using the “slow steaming” approach.

During the recession of 2008 many cargo ships cut back on their speeds since they had fewer orders to fill and needed to be extra careful about the bottom line. As the economy has picked up steam, however, shippers may start pushing speeds back up to take on more jobs.

Most ships run on diesel, which releases more emissions than other fuels and is costly.

This is why liquefied natural gas (LNG) is one of the alternative options being explored by the industry. Recently TOTE added a new LNG fueled ship to their fleet and will add a second in 2016. The LNG-powered ships are set to reduce sulphur oxide emission by 100 percent, particulate matter by 91 percent, nitrogen oxide by 90 percent, and carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent.

Some ships are even looking to the industry’s history and incorporating wind power. Although few ships have adopted it, the Flettner rotor shows promise in harnessing wind power. The rotor, invented about a century ago, is made up of tall columns that turn in the wind to produce a propulsive force.

New Parts
Retrofitting cargo ships with energy efficient parts and technologies like new propellers, advanced hull coating, and more advanced ducts and fins can make them 10 to 15 percent more efficient.

Major retrofits can be costly, but there are programs available to help defray the cost. Early in 2015, Carbon War Room, EfficientShip Finance, and the Liberian Registry partnered to offer tax breaks of up to 50 percent for ships that had been retrofitted with energy efficient technology. The Liberian Registry is the world’s second largest ship registry and is offering over $53 million in tax breaks across the entire fleet thanks to this partnership.

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