“If all ships on earth were a single country, that country would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world.”
As climate change becomes one of the greatest topics in today’s world, businesses are becoming more conscious about their carbon footprint. The transport required for global trade is a specific concern.
Online shopping has been made easier with the increasing revolution of modern technology. Amani, comfortably sited in her comfort zone in Kigali, Rwanda can get any product in a few days, weeks or months from China, England or even Libya.
A study published in the Business reporter points out that 90% of the word’s trade in goods is transported by sea. It is a lifeline of global trade. This means the shipping industry is responsible for around 14 percent if not more of the world’s Sulphur emissions and about 18 percent of the world’s air emissions- and an estimated 5.25 million plastics particles weighing 268, 940 tonnes in the world’s oceans. With the current trends in technology, it is possible to cut out these emissions almost entirely. However, oil spillages, habitat destruction from collisions and the overall sound pollution from shipping are killing a great number of Nemo’s and other marine life.
This problem has been accelerated by online shopping which seems to have taken over the world.
So what can be done to make a positive difference?
According to most industry leaders, the answer to green shipping is not with any cutting edge futuristic technological breakthrough but with a technology that can keep running for decades e.g. hydrogen fuel cells.
Fuels. Of a carbon-neutral sort, are therefore essential. Hydrogen has been given a boost in various announcements on fuel cells, although so far shipping has been neglected in this debate. Yet, it could be the deal-breaker in green shipping. Some companies have adopted the technology to use cryogenically cooled hydrogen as an onboard ship fuel.
Once cooled to a temperature of –253C, hydrogen turns from a gas to a liquid. and is reduced to 1/800th of its volume, making onboard transportation easier. As a result, hydrogen will play a significant role in achieving zero fossil fuel emissions within the marine sector by 2050.
The debate on green hydrogen or other potential zero-carbon fuels is not enough. liquefied natural gas for instance, while great at reducing air pollution has little benefit in reducing greenhouse gas emissions once methane slippage is taken into account. While some shipping companies are taking into account and making efforts to minimize methane slippage, even very small single-digit percentage leaks can erode the greenhouse gas benefits of switching from oil to gas, because methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 in its warming effects, in the first two decades after its release.
Perhaps more dialogue is needed between energy firms and the shipping sector, to place the world at a better place of carbon-neutral global trading systems. All this will be useful in the long term but what else can happen in the short term?
The three main candidates to steer short term results are global speed limits- like road vehicles ships consume less fuel a slower speed, operation efficiency standards for all ships, and shaft power reduction. The latter requires an engine power limitation system, similar to those used in automobiles, to be installed in commercial shipping vessels to limit power to an optimum level of fuel consumption.
Aside from its CO2 reduction to slow climate change, speed reduction has huge co-benefits for ocean life, in terms of noise reduction which affects aqua life and reduced risk of ship strikes which hinder the recovery of some marine life that contributes greatly to the ecosystem.
Content on orders should not be based on whether a client received what they put into their online cart but the type of shipping used to deliver the good.