How a healthy & viable shipping industry can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Global prosperity is built on shipping and trade.  The world as we know it would be unthinkable without the container shipping industry: however, its size and international scope also make it a focus of critical attention in any discussion about greenhouse gas emissions.

Concern about the shipping industry’s own prosperity was apparent in an address by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) to a United Nations meeting on the Law of Sea in early April.  The ICS stated that only if the shipping industry is commercially viable will it be able to invest in environmental and social improvements. It is estimated that implementing new environmental regulations will cost the industry over $500 billion over the next decade – one reason why the ICS argues that economic considerations should be given weight when drawing up similar regulations in the years to come.

Although carbon dioxide emissions from international shipping, on the decline in recent years, are now expected to rise again as the global economy strengthens, shipping continues to compare favourably with other forms of commercial transport, and operators are looking at ways of limiting emissions:

Running vessels at slower speeds – ‘slow steaming’ has already seen fuel costs and emissions fall.

Improving the efficiency of engines and propellers – as vessels have grown to super-sized proportions, their operators can fairly claim that energy efficiency and economies of scale have increased too.  One of the world’s largest container ships, Maersk Line’s Triple E, has a squarer profile which enables it to carry more containers.  It also has a redesigned engine and state-of-the-art waste heat recovery system.

Opening the door to innovative ideas – experts believe technology such as Flettner rotors could play a role in container shipping.  Flettner rotors are, in effect, sailing systems which use the wind for propulsion, reducing reliance on fossil fuel-burning engines.  However, they are expensive to install and can make unloading operations more difficult.

Switching to alternative fuels – these include biofuels – Maersk Line has been experimenting with algae biofuel – and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG).

Installing seawater scrubbers in this type of scrubbing, the alkalines in the water react with the sulphur oxides in the exhaust and neutralise them.  No additives are required.  The technology has been approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and enables operators to continue using their existing fuel rather than switch to a low sulphur alternative.  A range of analysers from Procal, including the Procal P2000, are currently monitoring exhaust gases in marine scrubbing systems.

Since the revised MARPOL Annexe VI regulations limiting sulphur in fuel came into effect, checks on fuel quality have never been so important.  Operators around the world call on the market leading skills of Parker Kittiwake for bunker fuel sampling and testing: for more information please call the team on +44 1903 731470.