Smarter Shipping Making Maritime Transport Environmentally Friendly

"Mohd Shahrin Osman
Regional Manager, Maritime Advisory Middle East & India
He holds a MSc in Maritime Studies from NTU Singapore in conjunction with BI School of Management Norway, BSc in Management from the University of London and currently pursuing a Doctorate degree with research on Sustainable Maritime Cluster.

In the face of dwindling fossil fuel reserves and tightening environmental restrictions, the shipping world is turning to low-carbon propulsion technologies. Future ships will rely on a combination of power sources and power-saving technologies.

In terms of noxious emissions per tonne of cargo carried, ocean shipping is the least polluting mode of transport. Nevertheless, conventional fuel oils are a threat to the environment and to world climate. They are not sustainable and will eventually be simply too expensive. Since no single, universal alternative source of propulsion energy is available, future ships will likely be powered by a variety of sources.

Shipping has long been at the epicenter of the environmental debate, with many arguing that it must do something about its environmental record. This has led to the introduction of a number of regulations such as tighter emission controls coming into force in Emission Control Areas (ECA), coinciding with increased public awareness of the environment, the rise in importance of ‘green’ credentials and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a market differentiator. As a result, many ship operators are seeking out green services and emphasizing ECO features in both the technological and operational aspects to deliver value to their customer, as well as benefiting the environment and their own bottom line.

With all the above factors coming into play, one of the main alternative to conventional marine fuel as the next logical step towards low-emission propulsion systems is liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is much cleaner than heavy oil fuel.

The topic of LNG as marine fuel has strong roots in DNV GL and our newly merged company is the dominant ship classification society for LNG –fuelled ships. In 2000 the first LNG-fuelled ferry based on DNV GL standards was launched. As a testament to our high requirements, this ferry has been operating safely and successfully ever since. Over the years that have followed, shipping has seen bunker prices rise and fall sharply, becoming more volatile and environmental regulations tighten, while in the LNG sector there has been a surge in production and deployment of LNG bunkering infrastructure. These trends, when taken together, have set the stage for LNG to emerge as a viable fuel choice on a much larger scale.

In 2014, the shipping industry hit a significant milestone with over 120 LNG-fuelled ships in operation or on order worldwide. They range from passenger ferries, Coast Guard ships, containerships and Con-Ro vessels to tankers and platform supply vessels. The vast majority of these ships in operation or those to be built are to DNV GL Class, reflecting the trust our customers have in our long term involvement in this technology and our continually evolving technical expertise.

Looking to the future and as mentioned before, oil is simply too valuable and limited a commodity for the world to continue to consume as a fuel; increasing our use of LNG preserves the world’s resources to use oil in value-adding products such as plastics, coatings and consumer goods. The importance in the reductions in local air pollution that can be achieved through switching (Please see below table for more information) cannot be understated. For example, high levels of NOx contribute to global warming, form acid rain and form toxic chemicals. It can impact population health by causing irritation in the eyes and nose, nausea, headache, asthma, visual impairment and shortness of breath due to swelling in the throat, which can lead to death in extreme cases. High levels of SOx will affect the environment by having a detrimental effect (i.e. less productive and will die prematurely) on vegetation in agriculture and forest. For the world population, high levels can lead to reduction of lung function, irritation of throat and premature mortality.

Over the past decade, DNV GL has undertaken extensive research on LNG as a marine fuel and has implemented an unmatched number of projects with industry partners. We firmly believe that the groundwork has been laid for LNG to thrive in the shipping and transport sectors as a smarter, more-cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional sources of energy.

UAE is located in one of the hot spots for shipping emissions, meaning that the local population within the Arabian Gulf region is exposed to pollutants from ships operating in the regional and local waters.

In order to reduce emissions and provide a benefit to ship owners and operators through reduced fuel consumption DNV GL has, after extensive research; develop ECO Solutions capabilities for improved ship energy efficiency. This consists of four elements: ECO Lines, which uniquely optimizes hull lines for the lowest possible fuel consumption. ECO Retrofit, a modular program which leads to fuel cost reductions through bow, propeller, PID and operating systems optimization. ECO Assistant, which provides on board and onshore integrated trim optimization and fuel consumption calculation and ECO Insight, which makes fleet performance visible in a web based portal, allowing transparency, easy reporting and pinpoint expert advice.

DNV GL believes innovation is key, which is why we spend 5% of our annual revenue on research and development every year. This has enabled us to be at the forefront of the research for greener, smarter shipping. For instance, one of our investments into cleaner energy which we regard to be very relevant to the UAE because of the high number of ferries that operate in its waters,are zero emission ferries.

The pilot project was initiated in Scandinavia, when DNV GL presented the study for its "Zero Emission Ship" in 2011. This aroused the interest of a major ferry operator which decided to develop a prototype based on the study. The resulting design was no less than spectacular. Hydrogen would be transformed into electrical energy by the fuel cells on board to supply the electrical pod drives, with any excess electricity being stored in batteries to cover peaks in demand. This, along with modern hull lines, optimized propeller shapes and efficient procedures in port play a vital role in reducing the overall energy needs and ship emissions at a capital expenditure that is only 25 per cent more than a conventional design. In the words of DNV GL expert Rohde, "The technology is there-it just has to be applied to shipping".

In conclusion, we at DNV GL believe that five maritime technologies are seen as vital to unlocking greater efficiencies and improving environmental performance: new materials and processes, fuels and propulsion systems, information and communication technology, hull water interaction, energy management and novel vessel design concepts. Advances in these areas will strengthen industrial competitiveness and job creation in our sector. Investing and developing energy efficient and safe vessels will help address the societal challenge of moving towards sustainable transport; while at the same time help maintain the cutting edge design, manufacturing and innovative production capacities, which will have a positive impact on employment and global competitiveness.

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