posted on 20 February 2019

The future of shipping: cleaner, brighter, better

Ocean freight has long been a consumer of “dirty fuel”, but times may be changing.

Both ocean freight and air freight were the only greenhouse gas emitting industries left out of the Paris climate agreement. Why? Simply put, the international nature of these industries makes it difficult to hold accountability for carbon reduction targets. For example, if a ship or plane departs from the USA and arrives in the Netherlands, who is accountable for that carbon?

But given that the shipping sector is responsible for 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions (roughly the same output as all of Germany), it was clear that something had to happen.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) took a leap to solve this problem in April of 2018, when they made the pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050.

Shipping carbon dioxide emissions 2050

So, how will the shipping industry accomplish this goal?

Old ships will be retrofitted with energy efficient technologies, while new ships will be designed to be slenderer. Low friction paint will reduce drag, slower speeds will increase fuel efficiency, and higher capacity utilization will maximize each shipment.

But more so than most methods, green fuel will have a large impact in helping the industry to reach its goal. We may see more use of liquified natural gas, hydrogen, lithium-ion batteries, and renewable energy such as wind and solar in the coming years.

These new technologies have already begun to be implemented, and you may spot some of the first electric vessels around the busy ports of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Antwerp! While these electric-powered ships cannot cover large distances, they are a step in the direction towards the goal.