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Becoming Green-Decarbonizing 50,000 Plus Ships is on the Way

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CG Aerial shot of container ship in ocean.

The idea of carbon reduction is an ever-present wish for most of the earth’s populace because with this happening means fewer pollutants in the air, a potential reduction in climate change, and less of a reliance on fossil fuels. One area where this advancement seems to be the most desired is with international maritime shipping.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been tasked with cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 % by the year 2050. This has led to the IMO to scramble to try and find new technologies that can decarbonize over fifty thousand freighters, containers, tankers, and ferries. Seeing as how the international shipping accounts for more than 2 % of the global carbon dioxide emissions, the IMO is looking into many possibilities to help meet the 2015 Paris Agreement quota to carbon emissions.

Low-Tech Solutions

Merely designing freight ships with a slenderer body can reduce fuel use by around 15% at slower speeds, and up to approximately 25% at higher speeds. Less fuel being used for the same trips the ships are already taking means they will be giving off fewer emissions than before.

There are some other simple retrofitting’s that can be performed to transport ships to accomplish this effect as well:

– By replacing one propeller with two rotating in opposite directions, the boat recovers slipstream energy and can make gains of up to 15%.

–  Cleaning and painting the hull with a low-friction coating can deliver gains of up to 5%.

– Fitting the bow of a ship with a bulbous extension below the water line will reduce drag enough to cut emissions up to 7%.

– Air lubrication- A technique which pumps compressed air below the hull to create a carpet of bubbles that reduces drag and can cut emissions by a further 3%.

Removing Traditional Fuel

Though altering the shape and drag speed of the actual ship may assist in reducing emissions, it is getting away from the traditional petroleum fuel source where many corrections lie.

The push for utilizing Biofuels seems to be a significant talking point, and at the moment there are a couple of companies that are employing this. One innovation already underway is converting ships to run on LNG. There are already more than a hundred LNG-fueled ships globally. Some LNG ships claim a CO2 emissions reduction of up to 15%.

New Ships

Past these innovations there is another way that ships can reduce their carbon emissions is an overall change of the transport ships themselves. Redesigning ships to be outfitted with solar panels will drastically reduce their emissions at a higher percentage than any of the other boat altering options.

Another much cleaner fuel source is using hydrogen to run fuel cells. Stacking this with solar panels can give a carbon emission reduction by up to 70%.

There is a zero-carbon emission option being developed now as well, it would be powered by electricity, half coming directly from wind, solar and wave energy, and the other half from converting some of that energy into hydrogen to power fuel cells. A Scandinavian shipping line is currently working on this type of ship, looking for completion by 2025.


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