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Tackling decarbonisation challenges

Maritime industry champions join forces to support the transition of shipping towards a low carbon future.

The Global Industry Alliance to Support Low Carbon Shipping (GIA) is a public-private partnership initiative launched by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in June 2017. The aim of the initiative is to collectively identify and address barriers to the uptake of energy efficiency technologies and operational measures. Wärtsilä is among the 16 members of the alliance, providing expertise in maritime fuel efficiency, as well as contributing financially towards the GIA Fund from which its activities are funded.

“It is well recognized that decarbonisation of the maritime sector is no easy feat and that significant improvements in energy efficiency cannot be achieved by one single player alone. GIA is a prime example of the kind of innovative model of collaboration between the public and private sectors that can pave the way towards low carbon shipping and ever-improving energy efficiency,” says Astrid Dispert, Technical Adviser for the GEF-UNDP-IMO Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships Project (GloMEEP), which forms the framework for GIA.

Dispert notes that although there are operational measures that can significantly improve the energy efficiency of a ship, they are yet to be established as common or best practices. The role of the GIA initiative is to look into why this is the case - what are the existing technical and commercial barriers, and how can they be overcome.

Room for improvement

Although shipping is already one of the most sustainable and economical modes of transporting goods and commodities, Dispert says that there are always opportunities for improving its environmental performance.

“In terms of energy efficiency, one can benefit from simply ensuring proper maintenance of the vessel or by installing new and innovative technologies. It is also important to take into consideration the decisions made shore side. These include operational measures pre‑defined in charter-party contracts, such as ship speed and load, which can have a considerable impact on performance.”

Dispert points out that a variety of commercially viable emission reduction solutions for sustainable shipping already exist. For example, propeller polishing, water flow optimisation, and hull cleaning each offer energy savings that far outweigh their upfront costs. According to the IMO’s Second GHG Study, the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of ships could be reduced by up to 75 % by applying operational measures and implementing existing technologies. Many of these measures are cost-effective and offer net benefits, since reduced fuel bills ensure a timely pay-back of the operational or investment costs.

Considering further challenges, Dispert notes the uptake of low-carbon technologies in developing regions.

“The lack of an enabling environment for technology cooperation, diffusion and uptake in many developing countries, especially small island developing states and the least developed countries, adds to this challenge. One advantage the GIA possesses is its ability to engage with developing country policy makers and private sector players.”

Innovation has dramatically increased the efficiency of shipping, as well as making it safer and helping to reduce its environmental footprint.

Innovation is key

Technological innovation is at the heart of the success story of shipping. Innovation has dramatically increased the efficiency of shipping, as well as making it safer and helping to reduce its environmental footprint. In Dispert’s view, the development of electric and autonomous ships is one of the most exciting current initiatives, providing insight into the potential wider application of such energy efficiency technologies, including the technical and operational areas that require further R&D.

“Also, we are seeing a broader diversity in the fuels used for shipping, with an increased uptake of lower carbon fuels, such as LNG and methanol, and different types of biofuels. This trend is expected to continue as the IMO has decided to cut, as of 1 January 2020, the maximum sulphur content in marine fuel oil used by ships operating outside emission control areas from 3.5 % to 0.5 %.”

Dispert adds that the use of big data and data analytics also provides interesting opportunities for the maritime sector. Big data can help companies make changes that increase profits, improve shipboard operations, and reduce their carbon footprint. The GIA includes key partners, such as port authorities, which are seen as vital to providing an enabling environment for shipping to decarbonise.

“As the IMO’s regulatory framework for addressing emissions from international shipping evolves and is further strengthened, innovation and new technologies will certainly continue to emerge. We are committed to working hard to catalyse innovation and address implementation obstacles, and thereby support the shipping industry to continue to develop in the most sustainable and environmentally conscious way,” Dispert concludes.


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