In the wake of the climate crisis and as new findings of climate change are released regularly, industries around the world have been forced to carefully examine their practices and the impact they’ve had on the environment. The shipping industry is one such sector that has been confronted with the reality that how they have been operating in the past cannot continue if we wish to save what’s left of our planet. Thankfully, there are many measures that shipping companies can take to reduce their carbon footprint and lessen their environmental impact.
Aaron Wens is a marine and electrical engineer, as well as a licensed Chief Engineer who has worked in the shipping industry for nearly two decades. Currently, Wens is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and works as an engineer for Marine Design Dynamics, an engineering firm that is working hard to create fuel-efficient vessels. Wens’ extensive experience in the industry and as an engineer makes him the perfect person to go into detail about what shipping companies are doing to reverse the harm they’ve caused the environment.
First, Aaron Wens claims that slow steaming is one measure that is being adopted by the shipping industry at large. Slow steaming is the process whereby ships reduce the speed at which they travel to limit fuel consumption. By reducing a vessel’s speed by 12%, fuel savings of between 27% are the result. Thus, when it comes to slow steaming, a little goes a long way.
Lower Carbon Fuels
According to Aaron Wens, using lower-carbon fuels for propulsion is one of the most hotly debated topics within the shipping industry today. Many shipping companies are hesitant to switch from traditional fuel oils to alternative fuels with less carbon and Sulphur emissions, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). However, fuel choice is critical if the industry is to get serious about reducing its carbon footprint. That is why the International Marine Organization has set a series of strict standards limiting the emissions of ships moving forward. Ultimately, heavy fuel oil is unsustainable, which means companies are going to have to find a new source of fuel for their fleets eventually. Luckily, many companies have already started taking the necessary step of swapping fuel oil with alternative fuels, such as LNG, biodiesel, or methanol to reduce their emissions.
Conserving energy has never been more critical, and this applies to the shipping industry too. According to marine engineer Aaron Wens, there are multiple ways that ships can reduce their energy use, such as through the use of batteries and cold ironing (otherwise known as shore to ship power). The latter is a method of energy conservation whereby ships receive electrical power from the shore while at berth. During this process, the vessel’s main and auxiliary engines are turned off. This process provides both a greener profile for the ship, and it extends the length of time between refueling and maintenance.
Renewable Energy Sources
Renewable energy sources can be precious to the shipping industry. Aaron Wens states that wind assist, or wind power, for propulsion is especially effective. Wens cites the examples of shipping companies Cargill and Wessels, who both tested out kite systems, as well as Enercon and Norsepower, each of which installed different rotor designs on their vessels to try and utilize renewable energy sources to reduce their carbon emissions.
Short Term Solutions
Lastly, Aaron Wens asserts that there are several smaller, short-term measures being taken by shipping companies around the globe. While these measures aren’t enough to significantly reduce the industry’s carbon footprint over the long-term, they are helping to reduce the emissions of ships right now immediately. At the same time, more extensive plans can be put in place. Such measures, which include optimizing hull design or waste heat recovery, are easy and quick solutions that can reduce emissions per vessel by 5%.
Aaron Wens concludes that the shipping industry is working hard to reduce its carbon footprint, and the future looks promising to lower emissions even further.