The International Maritime Organization (IMO) — the marine shipping sector’s governing body — pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. The vision confirms the IMO’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases from international shipping, and as a matter of urgency, is dedicated to phasing them out as soon as possible.
As the Chief Executive Officer for Delos Shipping, Brian Ladin of Dallas, Texas, is recognized internationally for completing several major transactions and acquisitions. From electric power to batteries and operating at lower speeds, Brian Ladin outlines several key strategies being employed by some of the industry’s most ambitious leaders.
International shipping has a major impact on our global greenhouse gas emissions. At current growth rates, Brian Ladin explains that shipping could represent some 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. For the period of 2007–2012, it is estimated that shipping emitted roughly 1000 Mt CO2 per year, equaling approximately 3.1% of annual global CO2 emissions — roughly the same as aviation. It is an integral part of the global economy, transporting around 80% of the world’s trade in physical goods.
In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, another way that shipping contributes to climate change is through their emissions of Black Carbon, tiny particles produced as a result of marine fuel combustion. The highest numbers of black carbon particles are produced by ships burning heavy fuel oil, accounting for 21% of CO2-equivalent emission from ships.
Brian Ladin outlines that the sector has responded to this challenge with varying levels of enthusiasm. For example, the Marshall Islands called for a 100% cut in emissions by 2035, the European Union wanted a cut between 70% and 100%, and some countries — including India and Saudi Arabia — pushed for no outright cap on emissions.
After years of dragging their heels on climate change, the shipping sector has finally started cutting carbon emissions. The question is, how much is enough? And what strategies are set to make the biggest impact?
One of the most popular strategies is to install electric power and propulsion systems on ships, instead of relying solely on fuel. The more efficient the electric motor, and the variable speed operation of the propulsors can dramatically reduce fuel consumption.
Production of electrically propelled vessels has increased exponentially since 2004. In 2012, over 160 electrically propelled vessels were built. In addition to building ships with this electrical propulsion technology, there is also an opportunity for companies to upgrade the systems on vessels already in use.
Benefits of Reducing Emissions
Another key strategy, as building new ships with electric propulsion systems will take time, is to retrofit existing ships with zero-carbon technologies and find alternate fuel sources.
Brian Ladin explains that the International Transport Forum (ITF) outlined that vessels sporting more slender hull designs have shown to lower overall fuel consumption. This leads to 10–15% savings at lower speeds, and up to 25% at higher speeds. A few other ideas put forward by the ITF are fitting ship bows with bulbous extensions below the waterline to reduce drag and painting hulls with low friction coating. However, all that being said, Brian Ladin emphasizes that implementing greener fuel sources is ultimately set to have the most impact.
Another opportunity for reducing carbon emissions is energy storage through the use of batteries and cold ironing (the process of providing shoreside electrical power to a ship at berth while its main and auxiliary engines are turned off). This option would allow the shipping industry to decarbonise by allowing it to run off electricity produced by a low carbon grid. One of the biggest issues is that for the shipping industry to start using those zero-emission fuels or batteries, you need to have supply, but you will not have supply unless there is demand. It is the chicken and the egg problem.
Final Thoughts from Brian Ladin
Lastly, Brian Ladin explains that one of the most effective methods available to the shipping industry at present is to start operating at lower speeds. If shipping companies slow down half of their fleet by 30%, it could cut emissions by around 200 megatons of CO2 every year.