Wednesday, December 6, 2023

How to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Ships

OpinionsHow to Reduce Carbon Emissions From Ships

Climate change is a hot topic these days. Most would agree urgent action is required to hasten the global economy’s transition to a low-carbon future, yet when it comes to the maritime industry, reducing carbon emissions and implementing more sustainable practices is easier said than done.

So how can we proactively reduce carbon emissions from ocean-going vessels, ships and boats? The answer lies in implementing small yet impactful processes and practices such as green retrofitting and green corridors. 

The impact

The most commonly discussed environmental impact of the maritime sector is exhaust emissions, including, carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NO2 and NO3) and particulates (PM or particulate matter)

The maritime sector accounts for around 3% of yearly worldwide emissions and is dependent on oil, a fossil fuel with a high carbon content. As a result, there is growing pressure on the industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Other environmental impacts include:

  • The release of ballast water containing aquatic invasive species
  • Historical use of antifoulants
  • Oil and chemical spills
  • Dry bulk cargo releases
  • Garbage including single-use plastic and other waste
  • Noise pollution

The challenge

Even though decarbonising the entire industry may seem like a monumental task, it is a crucial step towards building a more sustainable future. Unfortunately, in the maritime industry, even the smallest issue can have significant repercussions. For the global economy to remain stable, operational continuity in the sector is essential. This is because 90% of global trade is transported by ocean-going ships and boats, making the sector a crucial industry for economies all over the world. As a result, severe disruptions could result in global catastrophe and panic.

The only option to currently minimise ship CO2 emissions is by reducing fuel usage relative to the amount of cargo being transported. This is because there is currently no financially viable equipment or infrastructure available that makes it possible to implement industry-wide change. 

As a result, the maritime sector is one of the most difficult industries to completely decarbonise. The industry must transition away from using fossil fuels as its primary source of energy within the lifetime of today’s new ships and vessels. However, it must do so in the face of political, financial and technical uncertainty.

The solution

As the marine sector carries a significant portion of our global trade every year, simply putting a stop to operations is not a viable solution. Instead, the answer may lie in the adoption of more environmentally sustainable processes and practices in the daily operations of the sector. 

By proactively monitoring infrastructure for example, the maritime sector can resolve any potential issues before they escalate as well as implement more eco-friendly components on board that boost efficiency without compromising on sustainability. For example, to avoid excessive growth on the hull of a vessel, a crew might liberally apply paints that are proven to be environmentally safe and use other anti-fouling technologies that limit the growth of sea life which can result in excessive fuel usage.

Other options include green corridors and the implementation of more sustainable infrastructure through green retrofitting.

Green corridors

A green corridor in the maritime industry is the implementation of decarbonised routes. This means it’s an agreement between willing ports, owners/operators and other interested parties in a supply chain to implement carbon-neutral operations that are environmentally sustainable. 

Green corridors give decision-makers the opportunity to designate a particular route with legislative safeguards, financial incentives and requirements that guarantee the path is environmentally sound. As a result, green corridors can increase demand for sustainable ship management services as well as other important solutions in the sector such as shipping and transportation.

Green retrofitting

In a nutshell, green retrofitting is the process of lowering the carbon footprint of a vessel or existing piece of infrastructure in order to increase its fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability. The changes vary from ship to ship and can be anything from modest adjustments to major overhauls of the vessel’s infrastructure. As a result, the word green retrofit has no predetermined criteria – this is due to the fact that the alterations required will vary depending on the vessel, any difficulties and challenges and of course, the ultimate objective of the project. 

It’s important to remember that green retrofitting can achieve environmental sustainability with a variety of smaller, more manageable initiatives that don’t always necessitate a major overhaul. The process of green retrofitting also extends beyond ocean-going vessels and can be used to transform other infrastructure within the industry such as platforms, rigs and ports with greener, more sustainable components that lower carbon emissions.

Final thoughts

The maritime sector accounts for 3% of global carbon emissions emitted each year and is almost wholly dependent on fossil fuels with a high carbon content. So how can we proactively lower the carbon emissions produced by boats, ships and ocean-going vessels? Implementing simple yet effective procedures and techniques such as green retrofitting and green corridors could be the ticket to a more sustainable future for the maritime sector.  

Although most would agree that immediate action is needed to speed up the transition of the global economy to a low-carbon future, it’s difficult to implement more sustainable practices and reduce carbon emissions in the maritime sector as a result of our reliance on its continued operations. The solution may lie in smaller steps, such as green retrofitting and green corridors. The significance of such processes should not be overlooked.  

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