The Global Move towards Energy-Efficient Marine Shipping

Posted by Nicole Schill on Dec 13, 2016 9:33:00 AM

The global quest to reduce maritime shipping greenhouse gas emissions is daunting. This bold project spearheaded by the UN-backed International Maritime Organization (IMO) is propelling the marine transportation industry to design and implement efficient, affordable solutions that sustain both the environment and commercial industry – a relationship that is historically fraught with conflict. The IMO’s strategy connects the entire maritime shipping industry to pool resources, ideas, and advancements to implement innovative best practices and solutions together.


The IMO’s declaration is fairly simple: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% over 20 years through any means. While the multi-decade rollout is divided into 5-year increments ending in 2025-2030, aside from specific ship-size-dependent greenhouse gas emission reductions, the industry is encouraged to find creative and affordable solutions to cut emissions in ships already in use, as well as new builds. Ultimately, IMO is looking for a win-win for the planet and maritime shipping. The international community of IMO-led committees and privately-organized projects designed to integrate efficiencies tend to scrutinize ship design, overall energy use, and intelligent route planning.

Physical ship design elements built into the ship’s body, or a revolutionized propeller, can reduce water resistance and, in turn, the amount of fuel needed to make the journey. Since this strategy is both cost-effective, long-term, and environmentally beneficial, resourceful ship design has been part of the marine transportation industry forever. The historical data available alone makes this element of the plan to reduce emissions widely practical.

Compared to sleeker builds, implementing energy-saving aspects to a ship’s internal electrical system is considerably new, but no less available. Improved fuel-efficient engines, reused waste heat, and harnessing solar power to run internal heating, cooling, lighting and other fuel-powered electrical sources, are just a few examples of the ideas being tossed around right now. Onboard energy savings options are plentiful, resourceful, and ever-expanding to be stronger, more cost-efficient, and long-term which also eases their integration into new ships and those retrofitted.

Intelligent route planning has never been more accessible, and detailed, thanks to satellite technology. Live data in real-time allows for proactive fleet management, which is a powerful change for fuel-efficiency over reactive fleet monitoring. Combining satellite technology like exactAIS with other data sources provides users with instant feedback on current weather conditions, potential dangers, and route changes to plan the safest, most fuel- and cost-efficient detours. 

Resources and joint-projects exist all over the world to promote shared insights and spread marine-industry environmental education. Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) in particular is working with 10 countries on a pilot program to update governments and local industry partners on the most recent maritime innovations and help them meet the IMO’s requirements. The industry benefits and accessibility to green shipping elements, combined with IMO’s dedication to international education and accessibility to maritime efficiencies, could take the aspects of this incredible push for worldwide innovation from daunting to exciting as this new age of maritime intelligence takes off. 

Topics: IMO, ship emissions, monitoring ship emissions, ship fuel consumption, emissions

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