90% of Freight Goes By Sea – Greening Shipping Makes Sense!

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Oil Tanker on the SF Bay

As 90% of the world’s freight travels by sea, burning over half a billion tons of fossil fuel per year, it is no surprise that environmentalists are searching for cost effective, green enhancements to this traditional industry’s methods.

Seatrade Middle East Maritime 2008, set to run from December 14-16 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center is expected to be the stage from which several exciting new innovations in green shipping are unveiled.  As another hot topic for discussion at this event will be the effect of the economic downturn on the shipping industry, industry greening that shaves costs is certain to be highlighted.

One of exhibitors presenting during this event is AllShippingLogistics.com, a UK based charity that is focused on finding workable solutions to the 1.2B tons of CO2 (greenhouse emissions) released into the atmosphere every year by the global shipping industry. Greenwave has four programs in place, all of which are designed to enhance fuel economy.  As fuel costs for a single ship is roughly $3M/year, Greenwave’s programs also have a positive impact on the bottom line. 

Greenwave’s DRAC program provides easy-to-fit aerodynamic enhancements to existing ships that enhance fuel usage by reducing drag.  The WASP program has created a wind engine that is capable of providing at least 13% of the thrust to power a ship, which could save an estimated 900 tons of fuel per year.  The HYDRIS program is a research effort focused on reducing the drag created when the ship’s hull comes in contact with the water, and PASS is a web based computer simulation that shows a ship’s operator how much can be saved via the implementation of new fuel-saving measures.

Other ways of reducing greenhouse emissions in various stages of research and development include the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified natural gas (LNG) instead of traditional low grade fuel that creates harmful emissions such as sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides.  Preliminary data is available that shows both methods saving costs over traditional low grade fuels, even though sophisticated designs are necessary to both transport and use these non traditional fuels.

According to Jacques Saadé, the head of the French shipping giant CMA CMG (as quoted by Telegraph.co.uk), fuel costs account for 60% of his total shipping costs.  In July at the peak of the fuel crunch, he slowed the speed of his ships in order to conserve.

Fuel prices have dropped, but other troubling economic indicators certainly are dictating better cost cutting measures be put into place.  The mantra of those opposed to saving the environment was once that it was too costly.  When it comes to global shipping, it is too costly NOT to go green!

[Image Credit:  Peter Kaminsky at Flickr under a Creative Commons license]

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