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article imageCurrently used technologies can decarbonise our shipping fleet

By Karen Graham     May 7, 2018 in World
Earlier this month, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. agency in charge of shipping, agreed to cut total greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50 percent by 2050 and to pursue “efforts towards phasing them out entirely.
This initial strategy was adopted at a mid-April meeting in London attended by more than 100 IMO Member States. The strategy represents a framework for the Member States, setting out the future vision for international shipping and the IMO's ambitions on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Basically, in getting down to the nitty-gritty of the strategy, maritime companies around the world are going to have to find technologies that can decarbonize the 50,000-plus tankers, freighters, container vessels and ferries that make up the world’s shipping fleet.
Port-Limer s electric barge.
Port-Limer's electric barge.
Tilburg logistics company GVT Group
And while at first glance, this may seem like an insurmountable task, the IMO has promised a detailed strategy on how to implement the promise by 2023, even though environmental groups say the strategy falls far short of the 70 percent minimum cuts called for by the European Union and Pacific island states.
Low-tech solutions may be the answer
Interestingly, just before a meeting of the International Transport Forum (ITF), a think tank run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), came out with a study on March 27 that found the maritime industry could achieve up to 95 percent decarbonization as early as 2035 using “maximum deployment of currently known technologies.”
And believe it or not, there are low-tech solutions that do work. Eco-Business cites the 2008 financial crisis - there was a drop in world trade and too many ships. Maersk, the world’s largest container-shipping line, discovered it could cut fuel costs by as much as 30 percent just by steaming slower.
Sea Hunter  an entirely new class of unmanned ocean-going vessel gets underway on the Willamette Riv...
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned ocean-going vessel gets underway on the Willamette River following a christening ceremony in Portland, Oregon on April 7, 2016.
U.S. Navy/John F. Williams
The study notes that taking extreme measures, like redesigning ships that are made of lighter weight aluminum instead of steel, or making them more slender so they move through the water with less friction can be cost-prohibitive. However, these changes would cut emissions — by 10 to 15 percent at slow speeds and up to 25 percent at high speeds, says the ITF.
Then, there is the IMO's Rules of energy efficiency for new ships enacted in 2013. But it won't come into full force until 2030, and switching to slender ships would not apply to most ships until mid-century or beyond.
The ITF study is recommending the retrofitting of existing ships with technologies that would cut their fuel use, and in turn, reduce GHG emissions. Here are four of their suggestions:
Fitting ships’ bows with a bulbous extension below the water line that reduces drag enough to cut emissions 2 to 7 percent.
A technique known as air lubrication, which pumps compressed air below the hull to create a carpet of bubbles, also reduces drag and can cut emissions by a further 3 percent.
Replacing one propeller with two rotating in opposite directions recovers slipstream energy and can make efficiency gains of 8 to 15 percent.
Even cleaning the hull and painting it with a low-friction coating can deliver gains of up to 5 percent.
LNG carrier (LNG tanker) AL KHAZNAH.National Gas Shipping Company (NGSCO) IMO: 9038440 Flag: Liberia...
LNG carrier (LNG tanker) AL KHAZNAH.National Gas Shipping Company (NGSCO) IMO: 9038440,Flag: Tokyo Bay (Uraga Channel) Japan.October 8,2012
As for fuels, without question, maritime shipping will have to phase out the use of fossil fuels. Innovations ranging from biofuels to liquefied natural gas (LNG), nuclear reactors to sails to catch the wind, and hydrogen to solar panels have been proposed.
The thing is, each alternative fuel has its benefits and drawbacks. For example, biofuels require land to grow the fuel source, while electric batteries may be good for a short-haul ferry, but for an ocean-going tanker would require a huge amount of space. And solar power can only augment other power sources.
One promising innovation is the use of LNG. There are already over 100 ships using LNG, and a new generation of cruise ships are being built that will use LNG. Some LNG ships claim they have a reduction in CO2 emissions of 15 percent, though that depends crucially on keeping leakage of the greenhouse gas methane at a minimum.
Aquarius Eco Ship by Eco Marine Power - A Sail Assisted Ship
Aquarius Eco Ship by Eco Marine Power - A Sail Assisted Ship
EcoMarine Power
The best case scenario would be to incorporate better ship design along with better fuels. And that is happening today. For example, there's the Aquarius Ecoship, a cargo ship devised by a Japanese company called Eco Marine Power that is driven by a phalanx of rigid sails and solar panels.
The designers of the Eco ship admit that the design of the ship does not eliminate the need for some type of backup power. But the ship could cut emissions by 40 percent. But how about a ship that goes the Eco ship one better?
The Japanese shipping line NYK claims that its design for a 350-meter (1,100-foot) long container ship, the Super Eco Ship 2030, would use LNG to make hydrogen to run fuel cells and backed up with solar cells covering the entire ship - and 4,000 square meters (40,000 square feet) of sails to catch the wind. This combination would cut emissions by 70 percent.
NYK Group is targeting the achievement of “zero emissions” by 2050 and has designed the concept ...
NYK Group is targeting the achievement of “zero emissions” by 2050 and has designed the concept ship NYK Super Eco Ship 2030 as a milestone for 2030.
NYK Group
You have to admit that ship design has basically remained the same for centuries, and by that I mean they float and carry cargo and are designed within certain parameters. But with GHG emissions now playing a role in just about everything we do, it will be interesting to see what the maritime industry comes up with.
More about shipping fleet, decarbonisation, International Maritime Organization, ghg emissions, paris climate agreement
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