More than 190 participants at the 5th annual Green Ship Technology conference in Rotterdam on March 11-12 explored the latest tide of ‘stick and carrot’ options for making shipping environmentally sustainable.
Eco-friendly solutions aired at the forum ranged from legislative compulsion to commercially beneficial inducements.
On the one hand, there were stark warnings that politicians are preparing to impose mandatory emissions rules if there is no firm outcome to meetings of the International Maritime Organization marine environment protection committee (MEPC) scheduled between now and mid-2009.
But delegates also heard how a voluntary shift to new technology and socially responsible policies could help shipping companies to safeguard not only the planet but also their own future through improved business potential, cost efficiencies and public image.
Some 40 speakers - representing government, regulators, classification societies, operators and equipment manufacturers – were chaired by Andreas Chrysostomou, multilateral affairs co-ordinator in the Cyprus merchant shipping ministry, who is also chairman of the MEPC.
Underlining support for a pro-active approach, the event featured the presentation of the inaugural Green Ship Technology Award, which went to Alfa Laval’s PureBallast system. The 2009 award will be presented at the 6th annual Green Ship conference in Hamburg, which takes place on March 24-25 next year.
Hans Meijer, clean air policy officer in the European Commission transport department, stressed that the European Union would be ready next year to present proposals on air pollution and climate change caused by ships if no firm agreements emerged via the IMO.
“The EU supports shipping because it’s cheap, reliable and reduces road traffic,” he pointed out, “but 50% of Europe’s air pollution will come from shipping by 2020 if nothing happens. Studies show that life expectancy in northern Europe could rise by 1.5 months in that time if we take real measures, which can be done more economically than land-based initiatives, but we need to act fast.”
Mr Meijer indicated that, while the EU broadly supported IMO efforts to reduce SOx, NOx and CO2 emissions, there were concerns at the scale of the task facing the MEPC. “There are three SOx options on the table, for instance, and a decision has to be taken this year or we will act ourselves,” he warned.
“On CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, overall we are aiming for reductions of 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, so shipping has a large part to play. Even though it is performing a transport service for others, this is not a reason for exclusion.
“The IMO has yet to decide whether CO2 measures will be mandatory or voluntary, when they will be implemented and whether this will require a new annex of MARPOL. This would take six or seven years, which would not be acceptable.”
Mr Meijer suggested that a revision to the existing Annex VI would be quicker and establish a logical link with Copenhagen 2009, when a replacement for the Kyoto protocol is due to be signed with effect from 2012.
Meanwhile, he added, the EU was preparing its own mandatory policy options as a precaution. These included bringing shipping into emissions trading schemes, variable harbour dues based on greenhouse gas emissions and binding CO2 index limits for ships visiting EU ports.
Henk Merkus, deputy head of maritime shipping and head of the MEPC delegation in the Netherlands transport ministry, reinforced the call for political intervention if the IMO does not produce results.
“It is in the interest of all EU member states to take an ambitious line and form a united front to achieve a sharp reduction in emissions,” he asserted after describing a series of research projects on air quality commissioned by the Dutch government.
Measurements taken from 200 ships had confirmed the strong relationship between fuel sulphur content and the emission of PM10 large particulate matter, which had been reduced by 10% since the 1.5% sulphur limit introduced last year under the North Sea sulphur emissions control area (SECA).
North Sea PM emissions were found to have the largest impact on health and nature compared with other sectors such as road transport and agriculture, said Mr. Merkus, adding that ‘highly ambitious’ remedies would be more cost effective at sea than on land.
He also explained research into the effects of banning residual fuel oil in favour of 0.5% sulphur distillate fuels. Further refinement of the 8m tonnes of bunker oil produced annually in the Netherlands was technically possible but would need a €2bn investment by Dutch refiners – amounting to $300bn on a global basis. Meanwhile the process would increase the nation’s CO2 emissions by 3.5m tonnes a year, a 2% increase.
The research suggested that, if the IMO chose this course to reduce SOx emissions, distillates should be introduced on a phased rather than quick basis to avoid market disruption and price fluctuation. ‘Best guess’ findings were that it would take 12 years to complete the switch, including the time needed to obtain permits and planning applications and then to implement new installations and processes with appropriately skilled labor.
Gill Reynolds, environment principal at Lloyd’s Register, outlined the timetable for new IMO regulations on exhaust emissions after illustrating shipping’s part in air pollution.
IMO statistics for 2007 logged SOx emissions of 16.2m tonnes and a NOx total of 25.8m tonnes compared with 99m tonnes and 78m tonnes respectively recorded from all sources under the UN environmental programme.
Based on UN figures for 2004, shipping also produced 1,120m tonnes of CO2 emissions against a global total of 27,246m tonnes.
Ms Reynolds said that, even though this 4% contribution represented a smaller proportion than other emissions, the IMO was now realising the importance of CO2 as shipping’s main greenhouse gas. Ship design, CO2 indexing, emissions trading schemes and differential port dues would be key themes in future proposals, but progress was severely hampered by ‘non-Annex 1’ countries.
Meanwhile the IMO was aiming to improve the current Tier 1 standard for NOx emissions from new engines by 15-22% when Tier 2 comes into force from January 2011, followed by a Tier 3 reduction of 80% on current limits from 2016 in IMO-designated emissions control areas.
Existing engines (1990-1999) would have to comply with Tier 1 or operators would face measures to prevent unfair competition. Proposals included compulsory use of distillate fuels and refused entry to ports.
Efforts to reduce SOx emissions centred on fuel type, abatement technology and whether or not restrictions would be global or confined to SECAs, said Ms Reynolds, adding that the next MEPC meeting starting on March 31 was due to consider three proposals on low sulphur fuel, with caps ranging from the current 4.5% global limit to 0.1% in SECAs from 2012.
“Time is running out,” she warned. “Action needs to be taken or other bodies will step in and this is something the industry wishes to avoid if at all possible.”
Hanna Lee Behrens, DNV environment director, explained the relevance of implementing environmental management systems (EMS) by arguing that shipping was exposed to a ‘new reality’ of demands for eco-friendly performance from a range of stakeholders that now extends far beyond regulators.
“Charterers, insurance companies, banks, the media and politicians ask different questions to the regulators and you can’t just look at what the regulators require when considering EMS,” she maintained.
“Companies like IKEA give all their carriers an environmental rating – it’s part of their decision mechanism on who they want to work with. Media headlines say that shipping should be part of a CO2 reduction scheme. You need a policy to deal with such issues or risk losing out.”
Sound EMS implementation was also vital to cope with an increasing raft of regulations not only from the IMO but also from national, regional, port state and specialist sector authorities, she continued.
“The environment is part of your business risk assessment, but see it as an opportunity and not just a risk,” she urged. You can do good business while being environmentally responsible. Think about your energy consumption, the strength of an eco-friendly fleet over the next 20-30 years – especially if you want to re-sell - and the upsides on reputation. Do that and I can guarantee you a very good business case.”
Eelco Leemans, of Netherlands-based marine awareness training specialist ProSea, said a survey of 400 ‘quality flag’ Dutch and Swedish cadets revealed that 75% had thrown things overboard - often under orders – because it was deemed to be easy, quick and money-saving.
“The regulations are clear and the technology is available, but the regulations won’t work if people don’t have the environmental knowledge,” said Mr Leemans, who added that moves to integrate such awareness in the STCW seafarers’ basic training convention were supported by the North Sea Ministers conference of 2006 and the EU in 2007.
Jonas Wahlin, fleet manager of Swedish paper and forest products company Stora Enso, detailed the costs and benefits of running its nine-ship fleet of chartered ro-ro vessels on eco-friendly principles.
“Sustainability has been identified as a key factor in the group’s business strategy – we need trees to grow - and we actively promote improved environmental performance when we buy transportation,” he said.
The company used a 12-point supplier scorecard covering things like the types of fuel, cleaning agents and anti-fouling paint used on board. Among other measures, underwater hull cleaning was carried out twice a year and quick port turnarounds were scheduled to give more sailing time and help reduce bunker consumption and emissions.
Mr Wahlin also revealed that six of the ships have selective catalytic reducer (SCR) installations on main and auxiliary engines to reduce NOx emissions and they were also equipped for shore power.
“As you can understand, this doesn’t come free,” he added. Per vessel, SCR involved an initial investment of €900,000 and extra annual running costs of €200,000 – equivalent to €6 per trailer - despite savings of €110,000 per year from rebates on Swedish fairway dues.
The shore power investment was €200,000 per vessel and €500,000 per port, with running costs per vessel rising by €90,000 a year, equal to €2.5 per trailer.
Air emissions & fuel management technology
Thorleif Hals, managing director of Yarwil, described the SCR-based NOx reduction solution offered by the company, a 50/50 joint venture between leading urea supplier Yara and Wilhelmsen Maritime Services.
“You can increase fuel temperature to reduce consumption and soot emissions but the NOx goes up,” he explained. “You can’t design an engine that gives all the benefits in one package, so our view is that engines should be as fuel efficient as possible and then you clean the NOx.
“Engine modifications can reduce NOx emissions with little or no fuel penalty and SCR technology can be used once the ship is within an emissions control area to achieve the reductions of up to 80% proposed by the IMO.”
Jan Smits, project manager innovation at Holland Marine Equipment, explained the work of the Ship Emissions Platform, which the suppliers association formed last year together with the port of Rotterdam and Dutch shipowners, shipbuilders and conservationists.
“Sustainability can have competitive advantages,” insisted Mr Smits, “but you have to be pro-active. You can’t wait if you want to have a quality flag, so the marine industry in Holland is taking its own responsibility to find solutions and bring back the good name of shipping to the public.”
The initiative includes co-operative projects and is being promoted via a website, conferences and a public relations campaign.
Website content includes latest regulations and abatement equipment, data on emissions measurements, reduction methods including cold ironing and control measures such as crew training and optimum operating speeds. There is also a Clean Ship section featuring guidance on alternative energy sources.
Reinhard Krapp, head of strategic research at Germanischer Lloyd, described various options for reducing fuel consumption.
For newbuildings, the focus was on greater propulsion efficiency, reduced hull resistance – through design, coatings and air cushion systems – and improved fuel utilisation by recovery of exhaust gas heat.
For existing ships, he added, lower service speed and changes in routing and port calls could be combined with measures such as power management of auxiliary engines, cold ironing and wind power to improve the CO2 index.
“The challenge is to predict today how fuel prices, freight rates and environmental requirements will develop over the next 20 years so that we can make the right decisions,” he concluded.
Maarten Nijland, a project engineer in Wartsila Ship Power R&D, highlighted the reductions in fuel consumption and emissions that could be achieved by optimising propeller-rudder interaction.
“This can be overlooked compared with propeller efficiency and propeller-hull interaction, areas well known to naval architects that are usually fully optimised.
“We have to ask if existing solutions are offering only short-term fixes – low sulphur fuel, for instance, is hard to get and doesn’t cure NOx or CO2. Systems development is the way forward and doesn’t require much more than looking at what we already have.”
The Green Ship Technology Award 2008
More than 20 entries were received for the inaugural Green Ship Technology award, which acknowledges the most beneficial innovation to the marine environment introduced since March last year.
Alfa Laval took first prize for its PureBallast system, designed to reduce the transfer of invasive marine species during ballast water treatment. Conference chairman Andreas Chrysostomou made the presentation to sales manager Niclas Dahl.
Castrol Marine earned second place with its range of biodegradable oils while Rolls-Royce took third spot for gas engine technology that has achieved major emissions reductions in coastal and short sea shipping applications.
The judges were Peter Dekker of Wagenborg Shipping, Jan Valkier of Anthony Reder, Diederic van Kevlen of Q-Shipping, Jeroen van Waveren of Stolt-Nielsen and Lloyd’s List technical editor Craig Eason.