Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Technology Groups Join Together to Rail Against Concentration on New Formula Marine Fuels

Other Environmental Solutions are Missing Out Due to Narrow Regulations
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Clearly annoyed at the way the conversation is moving on the way the shipping industry affects climate change, with concentration on fuel types, and how this view can be ameliorated, a group of leading maritime technology companies and other prominent marine interest organisations have written an open letter to move the discussion on from a single subject agenda.

Timed to coincide with the start of COP26 the group, whose initial participants include Airseas, Houlder, NAPA, Norsepower, and I-Tech, today called for the industry, including the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and EU, to promote more investment in energy efficiency and renewable propulsion technologies so the maritime industry does not miss the huge and immediate opportunity to save time and money.

Currently, regulations are encouraging the industry to do two things; to de-rate engines so vessels are forced to slow down and save fuel, and to gradually switch to low and zero-carbon fuels, such as green hydrogen, methanol ammonia or biofuels. However as any regular reader will know, the possibilities are much greater through the use of such as wind sails, Flettner rotors and similar approaches.

This has prompted the group to argue that such restrictive regulations risk the sector inadvertently ignoring that huge range of innovative efficiency and renewable propulsion technologies already delivering significant fuel and emissions savings to the commercial fleet. These technologies include, but are not limited to, those wind propulsion aids, air lubrication, battery energy storage, hull coating technology, hydrodynamic energy saving devices including propeller devices, and voyage optimisation software.

Each member of the group spoke up to argue their case with Rupert Hare, CEO of Houlder, the independent consultancy coordinating the discussion beginning:

“The shipping industry needs both efficiency technologies and future fuels, yet there is a creeping sentiment that has seen fuels being prioritised. Neither provides the silver bullet for the existing fleet or the vessels of the future. Critically, future fuels will be less energy-dense than current fuels, so ships will need more fuel to meet the same performance goals.

“Given that every drop of new fuel will be essential, energy efficiency and renewable propulsion technologies not only can bridge this gap, but could mean the difference between success and survival. The best part is that these technologies complement each other, and alternative fuels. Each vessel has its own combination of technologies that can drastically reduce its carbon footprint.”

Hare’s view was supported by Vincent Bernatets, Founder and CEO of Airseas, a company which produces air borne kites able to tow vessels given the right conditions, who said:

“The shipping industry, the invisible backbone of our economy, is tackling the climate emergency with a growing sense of urgency and optimism, even as it struggles with the disruptions of a global pandemic. However, energy and optimism need to translate into action. Action now means embracing the full range of innovative tools that are here, commercially ready, and deployable right now.

“We can’t let the development of new fuels become an excuse for inertia. Immediate improvements and the immediate implementation of such available innovative tools are crucial, particularly as the current fleet and ships in the builder’s yard now will be on the water for decades to come. Our environment can’t sustain a ‘wait and see’ strategy. The damage that we are doing is cumulative and irreversible and we all share a responsibility to take action.”

The group is calling for all shipping stakeholders and international authorities to expand their focus and attention. Long term innovation, research and development and the development of alternative fuels are key to decarbonising the maritime sector, however they are not the whole solution. Shipping needs to integrate the available efficiency and renewable propulsion technologies into their roadmap immediately, with the following goals:

  • to ensure that shipping moves to address the environmental challenges right away
  • to provide the opportunity to immediately drop emissions and fuel consumption while alternative fuels continue to scale up
  • to provide the current fleet with an opportunity to keep pace with the rapidly accelerating environmental objectives coming from regulators, the market and the end consumer

Philip Chaabane, CEO of I-Tech, which produces systems to keep the hulls of vessels clear of the flora and fauna which cling to the ships slowing them and thus increasing fuel consumption, added:

“Shipping cannot afford to waste power and energy on inefficient vessels. Based on our research, ships lying idle during the pandemic has led to excessive barnacle growth on hulls, damaging performance just as they need to ramp up efficiency. A fouled hull will compromise investments made in a vessel´s energy efficiency. Owners and operators should be looking at the full scope of efficiency technologies as a strategic priority.”

The group says with the right support from investors and regulation, energy efficiency and renewable propulsion technology can inspire more ambitious targets and innovation, and ensure that shipping can continue as the lynchpin of a low-carbon global economy. Finnish headquartered NAPA produces voyage optimisation software to manage the vessels of today and aid cutting fuel consumption, costs and emissions and CEO Mikko Kuosa chipped in:

“Zero emissions shipping is achievable, but only if the global fleet can tackle misaligned incentives, which drive inefficiencies such as ships speeding across the ocean to wait at a port. The digital solutions are there to operate much smarter, the time is now to take advantage of all of them. Digital solutions also complement other types of clean tech, by validating the savings, and ensuring that operators can get the maximum benefit from solutions like wind-assisted propulsion.”

Rotor sails are one solution which has made great strides of late, harking back to century old technology, and Tuomas Riski, CEO of Norsepower Oy Ltd, producer of such systems had the last word, concluding:

“Given the magnitude of the energy transition challenge, energy efficiency technology has an equally critical role in meeting and exceeding carbon reduction targets as low and zero-carbon fuels. There is no need to wait, there are commercially-proven solutions available on the market today.

”Taking steps now will not only enable vessels to decarbonise faster and improve their ratings under the IMO’s Carbon Intensity Index (CII), it will also help ship owners achieve greater climate alignment compliance scores, specifically for the ship finance portfolios that are underpinned by the Poseidon Principles, or similar frameworks, and Sea Cargo charter clauses.

“Reducing fuel consumption and emissions through wind propulsion offers ships the potential to boost their commercial competitiveness and profitability through improving their utilisation prospects from increasingly discerning charterers whilst also maintaining a fully regulatory compliant, attractive asset value. Combining technologies offers even greater advantages. The problem is complicated but there are obvious choices available.”

To download the open letter from the group use this link.

Photo: The Maersk Pelican fitted with Norsepower rotor sails.