In order to focus attention on the UN's Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen we have decided to focus on the top ten trends and technologies in shipping for our latest post. Significant advances in shipping technology have made this sector one of the main innovators in carbon emission reduction technologies.
We asked Stephen Cahill of WFP Shipping to sit with us and discuss the top technologies and trends. WFP Shipping is the world's largest humanitarian logistics operator and is a heavy user of shipping services. We move over 2 million metric tonnes of food annually on 1,800 shipments to ports around the world. Here is what Stephen had to tell us:
1) Slow steaming - Perhaps the most important trend in shipping today, slow steaming simply means running at a slower speed. This is currently the hottest trend in shipping as it can not only significantly cut carbon emissions but it also reduces consumption and fuel costs.
2) Low carbon fuels - Research is currently being done into the improved refinement of bunker fuel. The demand for a reduction in the quantity of ash, sulfur and other byproducts in fuel is growing and efforts are being made to reduce the cost of these new low carbon fuels. Liquefied natural gas is also being considered as an alternative fuel for ships.
3) Cold Ironing - This process, which is also known as Alternative Marine Power (AMP), involves plugging a ship in port directly into shore based power. (See illustration at left. Copyright: Capt. Pawanexh Kohli) Typically, a vessel runs auxillary engines while in port to provide power. Cold ironing allows the vessel to shut down all its engines and has the potential to significantly reduce fuel consumption and port pollution levels.
4) Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) - A catalytic converter for ships, this component, when added to the exhaust system, effectively screens out 85-95% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Nitrogen oxide is considered a greenhouse gas and its production is regulated in numerous countries around the world. SCR is currently the most effective method of reducing vessel NOx emissions.
5) Improved ship hull design - Cushions of air and improved streamline designs are just some of the elements being incorporated into new ship design and build processes. While retrofitting existing ship hulls will require considerable effort, building improvements into a new fleet of ships is a relatively straightforward process. Propeller redesign is another element of the improvement process.
6) Improved port management - By constantly refining port operating procedures shorter wait times and quicker turn around times are becoming the rule rather than the exception.
7) Voyage optimization - By utilizing the latest weather and ocean current information to better plot voyages the shipping industry is constantly cutting back on fuel usage, costs and emissions.
8) Real time tracking - GPS tracking allows shipping lines to better plot the location of their ships and more accurately time the arrival of their vessels in port. Better timing means fewer bottlenecks in busy ports and less time spent idling, which is a major contributor to unnecessary emissions while in port.
9) Charter renegotiation - At "utmost dispatch" is a contractual term used for many years to ensure vessels sailed at their maximum speed, not necessarily their most efficient speed, and did not lose time moving goods from one port to the next. With new technologies providing the shipping industry with a real time view of the entire supply chain contracts can now be renegotiated to minimize use of the term "utmost dispatch" when it is not applicable. This, in turn, allows ships to run at more efficient speeds.
10) Sky Sails - Are basically massive kites attached to the bow of a vessel which pulls the ship through the water. While currently used on a limited number of ships this technology can reduce daily fuel consumption by 10-30%. (Please see our previous post.)