Drivers for Sustainable Solutions in the Maritime Industry

In 2011 Navingo organised the first conference on ‘sustainability in the maritime industry’. Representatives from shippers, ship owners, builders and equipment manufactures gathered in Rotterdam to think and discuss how to make our world of ships green. The second edition took place in Rotterdam on 12 April.

Regularly we proudly claim that transport by sea is the best we have and during the 2011 conference some suggested to change streets into canals. Indeed properly managed sea- transport is emitting far less CO2 per unit of transport than trains, trucks and planes. But to really be greener we can and must do better. SOx, NOx, waste, chemicals, cleaning detergents and the footprint of the ship construction and scrap industry can be managed in a better way to limit our impact on the environment. If the maritime industry wants to be the greenest we should simply follow the widely accepted policies of zero-tolerance and zero-accidents and strive for zero-emissions.

Sustainable solutions

This article is about the drivers for more sustainable solutions and the roads we can follow. Demand by shipping companies and supply of sustainable solutions by the supply- chain of owners, operators, yards, equipment manufacturers and research institutes are influenced by a number of mechanisms. Firstly, there are the consumers and the public debate, directing governmental policies and the distribution of limited public resources, finally resulting into national and international laws and regulations. At this moment it is unclear what the nett effect will be of a more focussed policy on innovation – sustainability is one of the trending topics within Top Sector Water – and the need for reduction of government spending.

Secondly, as IMO has recently accepted the Energy Efficient Design Index and more and more shippers are effectively using the Clean Shipping Index, it is becoming more clear what references are being used for labelling solutions as green or not-green. Another mechanism is the Corporate Social Responsibility of (leadership) firms. Inspired by consumers and the public debate some companies set their own policies on sustainability. During the 2011 conference participants made encouraging statements. Philips is ‘moving’ from air-to-sea while reducing costs and Siemens presented its vision of ‘planet, people and profit’. Away from the conference Fugro impressed us with GRAM (green, reliability, availability and maintainability) studies as an integrated part of their design process. Organisations like European and national shippers, ship owners and shipbuilding associations could help by leveraging individual messages from companies into clear and strong industry signals to the public.

Which route(s) will be the greenest?

The 2011 edition showed us many possible routes. All aimed to be green and some will effectively make the industry greener, but which (combination of) route(s) will be the greenest? One might be changes in ship operations management, for example slow steaming and cold ironing or Computer Aided Operations, incorporating applications like ‘Bridge-Assist’ and ‘Octopus’ in normal ship operations. Maybe even the introduction of the established practise of CO2 emission trading into the shipping industry. Reducing the resistance of vessels in the water might be another possibility, for example by designing new hull forms, the application of air films or by optimising paints and anti-fouling. Furthermore, there is a wide range of technical measures to reduce energy consumption: waste-heat for warm water and air-conditioning, isolation of pipes and spaces, LED lighting and simply more controls for HVAC and lighting. You can also think of the all electrical ship approach and more sophisticated energy management systems, incorporating fuel- and solar cells, modern batteries and windmills. Furthermore, alternative fuels like LNG can be introduced, vessels could use sails (again) and last but not least vessels can be equipped with scrubbers and cleaners.

Ultimately – following Bill Clintons famous words – ”it is the economy stupid”, that will accelerate or break the application of sustainable solutions. If a sustainable solution goes hand-in- hand with the reduction of costs, the demand for this solution will go through the roof and the solution will be self-sustainable.


“The conference showed a strong interaction amongst participants, speakers and panel members”, a frequently heard expression by participants during the informal drinks after the conference. This, along with the complex sustainability topic, makes SMI stand out.

Sustainability is not a clearly defined concept. It has many facets, such as air and water emissions, or the so-called environmental taxes during the construction and re-assembly of the vessels. There are also many stakeholders involved: logistic companies, shipping companies, vessel managers, ports, shipyards, suppliers, R&D companies, governments, associations and also financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies. All were represented at the conference enabling a versatile – at times complex, but always interesting – discussion.

The conference offered three conclusions. For one, there are enough technical instruments to achieve the SOx targets that are required after 2015. Introducing LNG, using scrubbers or switching to marine diesel fuel. No solution is easy and each solution requires proper preparation and necessary investment. The participants of the conference agreed that waiting to act and speculating for later introduction is unwise. The second conclusion, the introduction of the Environment Ship Index by the port authorities, incentifying greener ships by lower port taxes, was deemed a useful additive to the existing indices: Clean Shipping Index for vessels in operation and the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new vessels. Finally, it became clear that the financial world is still willing to invest in the shipping industry and new technologies making the industry more sustainable. This money, though, does not always reach the companies who need it. This mismatch is partly caused by the mutual unfamiliarity of the relevant business modules of involved parties. To do better we first start to improve the communication between the ‘classical’ maritime industry and the financial world.

Kees-Jan Mes

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