In Depth: It’s Time for ‘Green Ships’

In this article I call on the government, ship owners and operators and industries to make their contribution to the preservation of our planet by innovation.

Especially because the price of crude oil, and hence the price of fuel, is historically low, this seems the right time to invest in fuel-saving measures.

Encouragement versus sanctions

When governments encourage by improvement measures or discourage by pollution sanctions they stimulate change. The automotive industry invested in both hybrid and fully electric cars, partly because the emission standards for cars became more stringent year after year, partly by tax incentives, partly by bans on polluting cars, but also because governments supported the development of ‘green’ cars.

The shipping industry

The shipping industry makes money with transport over water. This same industry also pollutes the environment, although this pollution generally takes place out of sight. Requirements for reduced emissions of nitrogen and carbon dioxide are only in force in or close to ports. And remember,
shipowners and operators are only human. If the penalty or subsidy is not high enough, there seems insufficient enthusiasm to take environmentally friendly and energy saving measures. There is one bright spot: since 1 January, 2015 intensified European regulations require reduced emissions of sulphur … but not on all the seas.

What is achievable?

In Scandinavia, governments support environmentally friend- ly shipping through subsidy. Focus is on for example hybrid engines, which run on both diesel and Liquid Nitrogen Gas, and flue gas cleaners. Both solutions reduce the impact on the environment. Alternative solutions are the use of shore power, applying filters and catalysts or using air lubrication to reduce the water resistance of a ship. But having a hybrid propulsion, for example batteries combined with traditional diesel propulsion, offers a relatively unconventional solution. Remember, cars have a charging point at home, but also charging points along the roads. Charging points along ship- ping routes is not easy, but in particular for ferries and inland shipping this may be very attractive since such ships are usu- ally in port overnight. In port, these ships can recharge their batteries with ‘green’ energy (wind or stored solar energy). And during the day they can sail virtually emission-free… and not only near ports!

Collaborative measures

Compared to Scandinavia the Netherlands seems to lack behind with measures to stimulate a ‘greener’ shipping industry. If the Netherlands really wants to reduce shipping pollution substantially, not only in port, then it should not wait for European legislation but take action. This calls for collaborative measures from the government, ship owners and operators as well as industries. The benefits of a govern- ment actively driving joint innovation can be immense for all parties involved.

Mark A. Simmeren
Manager Concept Design & Consultancy Imtech Marine Netherlands

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Posted on April 27, 2015 with tags .

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