Environmental impact is driving innovation in freight
As the world adjusts to using fewer resources and our global economy relies increasingly on international trade, shipping carriers are under pressure to reduce shipping’s environmental impact.
While some pressure comes from regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the majority is coming from businesses focused on reducing the carbon footprint of their supply chain.
Shipping by sea is the most energy-efficient mode of transport, performing far better on CO2 emissions per tonne of cargo carried than by rail, truck or air. In fact, the world’s fleet of container vessels is estimated to contribute 3.3 percent of all CO2 emissions worldwide—a figure that some may argue is small considering the scope of container shipping, but one that nonetheless is putting container carriers in the environmental impact spotlight.
This pressure has driven R&D investment from carriers to find solutions to reduce the impact. The list includes everything from improved engine design, optimisation of ventilation systems and efficient hull and propeller maintenance, to research projects involving the application of fuel cells and alternative energy sources.
Generating power from heat
An example of early innovation is the Waste Heat Recovery (WHR) system, which utilises heat contained in engine exhaust gases to generate steam. On a ship, that steam is channelled to the turbo generator that powers the vessel, adding energy without using more fuel.
Maersk, one of the world’s leading shipping companies, installed its first WHR system in 1988 and has since reduced fuel consumption by nine percent. WHR research is undergoing a revival as Maersk continues to install systems on all large container vessels ordered, and using knowledge gained in tackling the balance between Slow Steaming and WHR because in general, the faster a vessel sails, the more exhaust, and recoverable heat, it produces.