Steering the shipping industry towards a carbon-free future
The shipping industry plays an important part in sustaining and supporting the global economy. However, as vital as this industry is to the world, it is also responsible for up to three per cent of global carbon emissions, a major cause of global warming.
The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) estimates that international shipping emitted 812 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015. With global seaborne trade expected to grow almost 4% a year between 2018 and 2023, shipping-related emissions are set to rise significantly, if left unchecked.
The urgent need to control carbon emissions in shipping has led the International Maritime Organization, consisting of 174 member states, to introduce strategies to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050.
This leaves the shipping industry with a challenging task to urgently consider measures that can bring about significant reductions in emissions. To achieve this goal, the shipping industry is exploring a range of viable options that are sustainable in the long run.
There have been some optimistic changes taking place in the industry. Companies such as Amazon are committing to make their operations carbon neutral. Japanese company Eco Marine Power is currently developing a system called the Aquarius MRE (Marine Renewable Energy) which will allow ships to be powered by harnessing the power provided by the wind and sun. There has also been an exponential growth in the use of electric ferries over short-distance shipping.
The way ahead for a carbon-free future
As of now, the shipping industry has formulated a series of methods and strategies which it hopes will enable it to bring about a significant reduction in carbon emissions. Some of these are described below:
1. Alternate Fuels
One of the key areas of research and development is in the use of alternative fuels and energy sources that are renewable and that emit considerably lower levels of CO2compared to heavy fuel oil that is now the most common fuel used to fire engines in ships. The alternative fuels include:
- Solar power
- Batteries and fuel cells
- Liquid hydrogen
- Wind propulsion
2. Improving efficiencies in the operation of legacy engines presently being operated to run ships.
This is achieved by the following methods:
- By retrofitting it with components that reduce fuel consumption
- Changing the type of fuel used – distillate oils instead of heavy fuel oil
- Completely replacing the legacy engines with new ones that can be fuelled by zero-carbon fuels
3. Improving the designs of ships being built to make it consume fewer fuels.
Improvements are achieved by the following:
- Installing engines that are highly energy efficient
- Improving the designs of the hulls to make it slender
- Reducing friction by painting the hulls with low-friction coatings
4. Reducing the speed of the ships to ensure that it runs at speeds that are optimum for maximising fuel efficiency.
Going forward, governments and regulatory bodies are sure to mandate compliance with emission standards which the industry must comply with or attract taxes and penalties for non-compliance. It is imperative that the shipping industry implements immediate and long-term measures to reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to the efforts to combat global warming. These measures could have some negative effects on the industry like higher operating costs and longer sailing times. However, carbon-free shipping is the future that the industry must aspire for. All stakeholders in the industry shall work towards this goal.
We, at Alsi Oman is fully committed to ensuring compliance with all regulations and have implemented green protocols in our business operations towards reducing our carbon footprint and play our part in achieving the goal of carbon-free shipping.