Is shipping ready to go green?


In the age of Covid19, of climate change and taking into consideration the new regulations which the Paris Agreement brought, the shipping industry is embracing good practices so as to become more environmentally friendly. The current trends involve using total energy systems, LNG, creating new vessels without carrying ballast water, new hull protection technologies, scrubbers, auxiliary power by solar cells, sail support and more.

Slow Steaming: Slow steaming has become a regular practice since, as using less fuel saves money and reduces carbon emissions. The transoceanic ships are operating using less than their top speed which results in the reduction of fuel consumption.

Water Ballast Ships: Water ballast ships pull in the water into the hull of the ship and store that water below the ship’s vertical centre of gravity at the beginning of their journey and discharge that water at the end of the trip. The ballast water, though, contains a variety of biological materials like sea-life, viruses, and microorganisms which are able to ruin an ecosystem. The new design for a ballast-free bulk carrier cargo ship which has been developed, allows for water to continuously pass through the ship eliminating the environmental impacts of water ballast without affecting the safety and effectiveness of the ship.

Design Updates: Modern designs are pushing the boundaries to create optimal ship design aiming at lighter and environmentally friendly materials which can be recycled and reused.

Propulsion: The modern propellers can reduce fuel usage by 4% while increasing the overall speed of the vessel. Sail and kite propulsion systems are also the new additions to the ship’s traditional propulsion.

Construction: New ship designs are using optimized hull shapes to increase ship speed while reducing fuel usage. This creates a cushion of air beneath the hull to reduce friction, which ultimately saves fuel. The effect of a ship using 3-8% less fuel can be achieved by using paint that prevents the build-up of marine organisms.

Recycling: Ship recycling is now a reality as the components of a ship are valuable and can be reused. Such parts as the steel, brass, and silver, can be converted into materials to be used elsewhere. The batteries, light fittings and generators can be used on new vessels while materials that are considered dangerous can be isolated or destroyed. The recycling process in shipping is creating new work opportunities.

Examining closely the aforementioned good practices which are continuously evolving we know that they are here to help shipping to become “greener” but inevitably it is the shipowners who are responsible for taking the final decisions. These decisions include much-needed fleet renewals so that the shipping companies are in line with the regional and international regulations on ship energy efficiency. Such regulations include the EU MRV Regulation, the Energy Efficiency Design Index, the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan and the emerging global MRV instrument of the IMO.

Furthermore, increased competition among shipyards offering attractive packages adds to the newbuild dilemma. Alternative strategies must be considered by shipowners who are known for embracing technological innovation and are looking for ways to start using alternative fuels, while there is no certainty on optimal fuel and engine types or vessel designs in the near future.

It is not easy to build a new fleet, as the marginal cost increases. Shipowners are focusing on the operations part, as they see the need to optimize their new speed profile by investing in low friction vessels. Shipping is about 15% of energy consumption. It is hard to have carbon neutral fuels without the shore transportation moving forward and advancing its technologies as well. Much can be done on the existing fleet but the new reality is that only 1% of new vessels have alternative fuels whereas less than 10% of existing vessels use alternative fuels.

Shipowners take into consideration that in order to have incentives to invest there must be less consumption, thus less emissions, resulting into lower cost. It is a fact that alternative fuels cost more. Even adjusting their fleets into using the new technologies, there must be a strategic plan which includes the training of a different set of people to work on the new vessels while there is a considerable cost to train these people who will work on the shore. At the same time, the creation of new offices and new technologies to support the operations system is adding another dimension into the investment which must be made. The question that arises is how can the shipowners cope with all of the above?

The new reality is that the executive oil peak has passed. The demand is formulated by the chargers. Chargers should offer a premium because if the world moves to hydrogen in ten years’ time, then the shipowners would need to change their vessels. At the moment, the infrastructure to have carbon free vessels is not there since there are no appropriate fuels. The existing vessels must minimize the energy consumption while moving from point A to point B. If there is a carbon free fuel the shipping industry will adapt. As we speak there are some trials in regard to ammonia fuelling the engine but there has to be a longer-term proposition.

The LNG has a future as these types of companies can work with both alternative and traditional methods. Shipping has an abundance of capable and well qualified people. Shipowners will invest in new technologies. Emission data will become the new trend which will bring more regulations, also because of Covid-19. There has to be a timeline for all of this as the vessels have 25 years’ life expectancy. It is time take radical steps to de-carbonize, while creditors and chargers pushing the shipping industry are making the lives of shipowners progressively challenging.

Another idea that is already becoming a reality is the combination of sailing with sails. Regional ships will eventually be able to use hydrogen or ammonia for the shorter distances. The development of batteries for such a cause and especially for regional purposes is also underway but we need to understand that one solution cannot fit everything. The shipping industry is slowly adapting and becoming more environmentally friendly while moving the world’s goods and reducing negative environmental impacts. The breakthrough is near and the green fleet is approaching our shores. We need to be ready.

The content of this article is valid as at the date of its first publication. It is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you seek professional advice on your specific matter before acting on any information provided. For further information or advice, please contact us at info@kyprianou.com