Photo: Airseas

Maritime tech group: Energy efficiency technologies deserve greater priority

The shipping industry is in danger of losing out on a huge opportunity to make impactful and immediate gains in tackling the climate emergency, by only focusing on a narrow set of measures and having a preoccupation with new fuels, according to a new group of maritime technology companies and other maritime organisations.

Maritime
Airseas Seawing parafoil. Image by Airseas

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 derate 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, given the scale and urgency of the climate emergency, the group argues that regulations risk the sector inadvertently ignoring the huge range of innovative efficiency and renewable propulsion technologies already delivering significant fuel and emissions savings to the commercial fleet, including, but not limited to wind propulsion, air lubrication, battery energy storage, hull coating technology, hydrodynamic energy saving devices including propeller devices, and voyage optimisation software.

“The shipping industry needs both efficiency technologies and future fuels – yet there is a creeping sentiment that has seen fuels being prioritised,” Rupert Hare, CEO, Houlder, the independent consultancy coordinating the group, commented.

“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.”

“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,” Vincent Bernatets, Founder and CEO, Airseas, added.

“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,” Bernatets concluded.

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, but they are not the whole solution, the group believes.

Shipping needs to integrate the available efficiency and renewable propulsion technologies into their roadmap immediately – with the following goals — to ensure that we move 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; and 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.

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, the group concluded.