Ecocentric

VIDEO: Set Sail for Greener Maritime Cargo Shipping

Shipping by sea is as vital to the global economy as it is destructive to the global environment. But new technologies—and old ones—can help make shipping easier on the planet.

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Maritime shipping is the lifeblood of international trade, and it’s all thanks to the modern container ship. These floating skyscrapers can carry as many as 15,000 containers 20-ft. long containers, enough to carry 745 million bananas—one for every European and North America. (I took that fact from Rose George’s upcoming book Ninety Percent of Everything, which looks fabulous.) Container ships—which can unload and load their cargo via those regularized container far quicker than ships in the past—carry everything you can buy, and their existence is what enables the cheap flow of goods from the developing world to the developed one. Without container ships, you really would have to buy American.

But shipping incurs an environmental cost. According to the International Maritime Organization, sea shipping accounts for around 3 to 4% of global CO2 emissions. That may not sound like a lot—and because container ships can carry so much, they’re relatively efficient on a ton per mile basis—but as shipping industry grows, so does its carbon footprint. And the local pollution produced by container ships as they steam in and out of port can be severe because they usually burn low-grade ship bunker fuel that is painfully high in polluting sulphur. In 2009 it was calculated that the largest 15 ships could be emitting as much carbon and greenhouse gases as 760 million cars.

So the maritime shipping industry could stand to go on a carbon diet. Some of the big players, like Denmark’s Maersk, have already made moves to improve environmental performance—its massive Triple-E container shops will be able to hold more cargo, requiring fewer trips, while its more efficient engines and waste heat recovery system could help cut the cost of long-distance transport. Just this past week, the first Triple-E—which will hold 18,000 20. ft containers, the most in the world—just set off on its maiden voyage from the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia. The company believes the Triple-E will be able to cut  carbon emissions per container moved in half.

But efficiency can only get you so far—as maritime companies reduce fuel costs, they’ll be able to use some of those savings to increase shipping, cutting into the carbon reductions. (This is known as the “rebound effect,” though researchers disagree on how large it might be for maritime shipping.) Truly green shipping would require crafts that don’t depend on fossil fuels, like the sail-powered hybrid container ship being designed by the Dutch company Dykstra, or even solar-powered cargo ships.  What would a greener era of martime shipping be like? TIME contributor Laurent Laughlin has the above video report.

5 comments
CarolineClarke
CarolineClarke

Salutations,

This to a myriad of challenges we face together.  With a salute to the efforts by the goods identifying a variety of initiatives - to regard small change can make a big difference as to attention on 'measures to manage' - to probe the who what when where why and how pathway 'rebound effect'; its fit for purpose delivering on the principals common but differentiated responsibilities 'use phase’ separate from the asset. The who in short a registered trading company on what is to base line from their activities their emissions – when is temporal retrospective as to illuminate the baseline this undertaking as to pinpoint attention on goals and target strategies – where is spatial origin to destination tackle to tackle – why is positive triple bottom line solutions to both existing and future systems reduce recycle and re-use to regard the values engaging industries forged in the making of how is to engage stakeholders as to activities incorporating practises.Thank you for sharing kind regards Caroline

HeinzRudolfOtto
HeinzRudolfOtto

Hi Andreas with the sunny smile in your face of a seaman on its right way without HFO-emissions, it is a great Feeling, to see, that Wilhelm Prölss has done well his development of the DYNARIG - 50 years ago. And it is a movement from the buttom. The big Players in the maritime Industry are not able, to jump, to imagine a world with less oil; they are prisoners in ist Business. The hope for a fossil free maritime world are laying on the shoulders of you, Andreas and Thys (DYKSTRA) and Torben Hass and Marcello Segato and Hartmut Schwarz and Gavin Allwright and Fritjof Giese, see the links below.

All the best from Heinz, www.windships.de

http://www.chorendesainasia.com/design-category/cruise-marine-tourism-vessels/

http://www.modern-merchant-sailing-vessel.com/

http://cargosail.fritjofgiese.com/

http://seagatesail.com/the-company/key-people/core-team/

http://www.kapitaen-hass.de/windjammer-shipping/

Gavin_Allwright
Gavin_Allwright

Great to see Andreas and the crew - real pioneers in bringing back wind propulsion into cargo and commercial sea transportation as a whole. Jan and the Sail Transport Network continues to support these efforts and over the last couple of years we have seen the movement grow and our projects gain a lot more attention. Tres hombres - what can I say -- inspirational and excellent rum too.

Our first S/V Greenheart ship is nearing it's keel laying in Bangladesh now. http://www.greenheartproject.org We have been part of the movement in spirit and in support for quite a while, now we are really looking forward to joining it in a physical/practical way. We are also part of the development of a pilot project in the South Pacific, which will help develop a low-carbon network of sail and sail/hybrid shipping in the region - heady days indeed.

JanLundberg
JanLundberg

Fantastic!  Brings back beautiful memories of my two voyages on the Tres Hombres.  A fabulous sail transport player is Guillaume Le Grand's  TOWT organization, and a major ecoliner developer is the UK's B9 shipping.  Get ready to take your bicycle and bike trailer to the docks to meet your ship and take on truly green products.  Or at least think about that coffee and chocolate you love that's transported thousands of miles with dirty bunker fuel.  Now that the average speed of the big cargo ships has dropped to 15 knots -- slower than the clipper ships of over a century ago -- due to high oil prices, sail transport clearly looks like the future right around the next cape.  The ships may be engineless like the Tres Hombres or aided by renewable-energy auxiliary motors.  The Sail Transport Network http://www.sailtransportnetwork.org has been promoting clean, renewable-energy transport for trade and travel since 1999, and thanks to expensive, dwindling oil and the far worse threat of global warming, and our love of the sea, the sail transport movement is on the rise.