The Roadmap Towards a Zero Emission Future

Posted by
Maria Bertzeletou
July 20, 2023

In the wake of IMO 2020, the shipping industry has witnessed significant developments towards a greener future, focusing on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Several key areas have experienced notable advancements, including technology of ships, alternative fuels, port infrastructure, and supply chain considerations by energy players. While progress has been made, challenges related to fuel availability, infrastructure readiness, and financing capacity for new vessel designs remain, impacting the current market landscape. Furthermore, collaborative efforts among stakeholders are driving innovation and fostering a more sustainable shipping industry. With these advancements, the industry is poised to achieve substantial reductions in emissions and pave the way for a more environmentally friendly shipping sector.

In terms of ship technology, there have been notable improvements in engines and vessel designs approved by classification societies, particularly for major players in the dry bulk and tanker segments. These advancements aim to enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions.

Alternative fuels have gained attention as a promising solution, with LNG (liquefied natural gas) emerging as the most prominent fuel type. DNV Alternative Fuels Insight statistics offer a global view of the current landscape, showcasing the adoption and potential of alternative fuels in the shipping industry. In addition, port infrastructure and supply chain considerations by energy players play a vital role in facilitating the transition to a greener future. Developing infrastructure to support alternative fuels and optimizing supply chain processes can significantly contribute to reducing emissions in the shipping sector.

Analysis of emissions reduction scenaria shows that vessel speed is a core factor affecting emissions levels in both the dry bulk and tanker segment. There seems to be significant margins for optimizing for speed and effecting emissions reduction. Different shipping routes are served by often a variety of vessel sizes, originating open areas and speed profiles. Conducting emissions range / sensitivity analysis by cargo exporting area and commodity can provide valuable insights into the opportunities for greener shipping.  

A growing number of technology solutions (including The Signal Ocean Platform)  are becoming more and more effective in assisting shipping players make decisions that reduce the industries environmental footprint, while often and on average reducing costs at the same time. By leveraging data-driven insights, shipping operators can identify opportunities for emissions reduction, fuel optimization, route optimization, and operational efficiency. This, in turn, can lead to cost savings and a positive environmental impact.

The depth of available data, models, and other advantages provided by the platform offer robust analysis and decision-making capabilities. With comprehensive data on emissions, fleet compositions, regional variations, and market trends, stakeholders can gain valuable insights into the shipping industry's current state and navigate the transition to a greener future more effectively.

This article examines recent progress and initiatives by the shipping industry to meet new IMO targets and provides Signal Ocean Platform data on emissions developments and trends.

I. Charting the Course Towards a Greener Future for Shipping

With concerns about climate change on the rise, the shipping industry has a critical role to play in the quest for a greener future. At the recent IMO MEPC 80 meeting, a revised greenhouse gas emissions strategy was unveiled. The revised strategy aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. The new targets include a 20% reduction in emissions by 2030, a 70% reduction by 2040 (compared to 2008 levels), and an ultimate goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The new regulations are expected to come into force in mid-2027.

Given the shipping industry's significant contribution to global carbon emissions, it is imperative to explore sustainable alternatives and adopt environmentally friendly practices. By implementing the following steps, the shipping industry can chart a course toward a greener and more sustainable future.

In response to the IMO's targets, shipping companies have been actively exploring and implementing low-carbon fuel alternatives. Biofuels derived from sustainable sources, such as algae and waste materials, have gained traction as a viable option. Additionally, the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a cleaner marine fuel has increased, reducing both sulfur and carbon emissions. Moreover, research into hydrogen fuel cells and ammonia as potential green fuels for shipping is progressing rapidly, holding promise for a zero-emission future. Lastly, fuel cells are a technology that converts chemicals into electricity. They can be powered by hydrogen or other fuels like methanol. They are very efficient and produce no emissions, making them suitable for different types of ships. However, there are challenges in setting up the necessary infrastructure, making fuels available, ensuring safety, and making it economically viable.

The continuous evolution of ship designs is driven by the need for enhanced efficiency, safety, and environmental sustainability. To enhance the energy efficiency of vessels, shipping companies have been investing in various technologies. Through the adoption of advanced propulsion systems, optimized hull designs, energy management systems, waste heat recovery, ballast water treatment, and intelligent automation, the industry is making significant strides towards a more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping sector. The integration of digital technologies and connectivity solutions is transforming ship design and operations. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors, and data analytics platforms enable real-time monitoring of vessel performance, fuel consumption, and maintenance needs. This data-driven approach allows for proactive decision-making, optimizing operational efficiency, and reducing environmental impact.

The multiple options on new energy efficient technologies not only improve vessel performance and reduce operational costs but also contribute to the preservation of marine ecosystems and the overall sustainability of deep-sea shipping. To help the shipping industry in choosing energy-efficient technologies for ships, the Global Industry Alliance to Support Low Carbon Shipping (Low Carbon GIA) published a practical Guide to the Selection of Energy Efficiency Technologies for Ships. This guide, developed under the IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 Project, is specifically designed for ship owners and operators.

The Guide offers a straightforward and adaptable approach for shortlisting technologies. It utilizes eight evaluation criteria, including similarity, plausibility, accuracy, overall and specific volume of orders, repeat orders, consistency, and compatibility. These criteria provide a framework to assess and compare different technologies effectively.

By using this Guide, ship owners and operators can easily navigate the selection process, considering factors such as the feasibility of implementation, reliability, and the potential for significant energy savings. The aim is to support the industry in making informed decisions about energy-efficient technologies that align with their specific needs and requirements. Ultimately, the Guide serves as a valuable resource to promote the adoption of energy-efficient technologies in the shipping industry, contributing to the overall goal of reducing carbon emissions and fostering sustainable practices in maritime transportation.

Shipping companies are embracing renewable energy sources to power onboard systems and reduce emissions during port operations. Solar panels and wind turbines are being installed on vessels to generate clean energy, reducing reliance on auxiliary engines, and cutting down emissions. Shore power facilities in ports allow ships to connect to the electrical grid, eliminating the need for onboard generators while docked.

Recognizing that addressing emissions requires collective action, shipping companies, governments, and organizations have formed partnerships and collaborations. These initiatives focus on research and development, sharing best practices, and promoting knowledge transfer. Joint projects aim to develop and deploy innovative technologies, improve infrastructure, and create a supportive regulatory framework to accelerate the industry's transition towards a greener future. The Zero Emission Shipping - Mission Innovation 

To pave the way for a greener future in shipping, the availability of alternative fuels plays a vital role in their widespread adoption. However, this availability is influenced by factors such as port infrastructure, local regulations, and government policies. As the demand for cleaner fuels in shipping rises and environmental regulations become more stringent, efforts are underway to improve the accessibility of these fuels through infrastructure development, collaborations, and investments in production facilities.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) infrastructure has seen significant growth in recent years, resulting in more LNG bunkering facilities and LNG-powered vessels. Nonetheless, the availability of LNG as a marine fuel can still vary depending on the region. To ensure consistent availability worldwide, there is a need for further development of LNG supply chains and infrastructure.For biofuels, their availability hinges on production capacity and the availability of feedstock. Although biofuels are being produced and utilized in various sectors, their availability as a marine fuel remains limited. Scaling up biofuel production and establishing robust supply chains are imperative to ensure wider availability within the shipping industry.Hydrogen, as a fuel for maritime applications, is still in the early stages of infrastructure development. While some hydrogen vessels have been tested or introduced in the first quarter of last year, the infrastructure required for hydrogen production and distribution needs further advancement.

Ammonia, as a marine fuel, currently faces limitations in availability. The production, storage, and handling infrastructure for ammonia need further development to support its widespread use in the shipping industry.Methanol, on the other hand, is already a commercially available fuel and has been used as a blend with conventional fuels in some ships. However, its availability as a standalone marine fuel can still be limited in certain regions. Bureau Veritas in October 2022 published a White Paper for the Alternative Fuels Outlook. This white paper provides a comprehensive overview of alternative fuels for the shipping industry, taking into account key factors such as technological maturity, availability, safety, emissions, and regulations. 


II. The role of the Singal Ocean Platform on Emissions Monitoring for Vessels

The vessel emission features provided by the Signal Ocean platform, combined with the Vessel Emissions API, offer valuable tools for participants in the shipping industry. These features enable users to easily access and analyze emissions data for any planned voyage, promoting a simple, systematic, and consistent approach to understanding and comparing emissions.

With the vessel emission features on the Signal Ocean platform, shipping participants gain a comprehensive view of the emissions associated with their proposed voyages. This includes information such as carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. By providing this data in a user-friendly format, the platform allows users to quickly assess the environmental impact of their shipping operations.

The Signal Ocean estimates vessel emissions, like CO2, from AIS data converted into voyages, where all stops for bunkering operations, idle times, repairs, loads and discharge operations are taken into account. At sea, ballast and laden legs and Sulphur Emission Control Area navigation times are clearly defined. Fuel consumption is mapped to different fuel types (VLSFO, MGO, HSFO) based on the area that vessels have been trading, as well as taking into consideration a rich set of vessel particulars, including dimensions, the country built, and year built, scrubber fitting, consumption curves, operational conditions and vessel speeds.

In 2022, Signal Ocean's algorithm, which forms the basis for estimating vessel CO2 emissions, underwent a verification process conducted by the independent classification society DNV. The verification process confirmed that Signal Ocean's algorithm adheres to the guidelines set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for calculating vessel CO2 emissions and carbon efficiency metrics, such as the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII). This validation provides shipping participants with confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the emissions data provided by Signal Ocean. The vessel emission estimation service offered by Signal Ocean covers a wide range of vessel types, including tankers, dry bulk carriers, and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) vessels. This comprehensive coverage ensures that participants from various sectors of the shipping industry can access emissions data specific to their vessel types.

Our emissions estimation algorithm consists of four distinct parts, each serving a specific purpose. Let's delve into the structure of the algorithm to gain a better understanding.

Calculation of Detailed Events: This initial step involves gathering and analyzing detailed event data related to the vessel's voyage. This includes information such as speed changes, port stays, and route deviations. The output of this step serves as input for the next part of the algorithm.

Consumption Calculation per Fuel Type: Using the detailed event data from the previous step, the algorithm proceeds to calculate fuel consumption based on different fuel types used by the vessel. This calculation considers factors like speed, engine efficiency, and fuel type-specific consumption rates. The output of this step provides consumption data per fuel type.

Emission Calculation per Pollutant: Utilizing the fuel consumption data obtained in the previous step, the algorithm proceeds to estimate emissions for various pollutants such as CO2, SO2, and NOx. This calculation considers emission factors specific to each fuel type and pollutant. The output of this step provides emission data per pollutant.

Metrics & Ratings Calculation: In the final step of the algorithm, metrics and ratings are calculated based on the emissions data obtained. These metrics could include efficiency ratings, environmental performance indicators, or other relevant benchmarks. These calculations provide valuable insights into the vessel's environmental impact and facilitate meaningful comparisons and benchmarking.

To better illustrate the process, let's consider a simple example (Image 1). Suppose we have a vessel with known detailed events, such as a change in speed and a port stay. Using this information, the algorithm calculates the fuel consumption per fuel type during those events. Based on fuel consumption, it estimates the emissions per pollutant, considering the emission factors specific to each fuel type. Finally, using the emissions data, it calculates metrics and ratings to evaluate the vessel's environmental performance.

Image 1: The Signal Ocean Emissions Estimation Algorithm (Example)

By following the above structured approach, our emissions estimation algorithm ensures a comprehensive and systematic analysis of vessel emissions. It considers various factors and input data at each step, resulting in accurate and reliable estimates. This process enables users to gain a deeper understanding of emissions and make informed decisions regarding their environmental impact.

In addition to our emissions estimation algorithm, we have developed a powerful API that provides a wide range of emissions-related data (Image 2). This API serves as a comprehensive resource for accessing valuable information, including emissions data, consumptions, energy efficiency metrics, voyage statistics, normalized metrics, as well as ratings and alignment scores.

Image 2: The Signal Ocean Emissions API Structure

III. The Signal Ocean Emissions Assessments for Dry Bulk and Tankers

We have conducted an analysis of vessel emissions for dry bulk and tankers of all sizes in order to monitor the extent of improvement during the years 2021, 2022, and 2023. As depicted in Image 3, which illustrates CO2 normalized emissions, there have been indications of gradual reduction, albeit not yet significant decreases.

Image 3: The Signal Ocean Emissions Assessements, CO2 normalized, Dry Bulk & Tankers, Ytd 2021-2022-2023

However, when focusing on smaller vessel size categories, Image 4, we observe a slightly clearer downward trend. This trend may be attributed, in part, to the current state of the freight market, which allows for a reduction in ballast vessel speed knots. Nevertheless, it remains to be determined whether the emissions for the most recent year will ultimately be lower than those of 2022 and 2021.

Image 4: The Signal Ocean Emissions Assessments, CO2 normalized, per Vessel Size, Dry Bulk & Tankers, Ytd 2021-2022-2023

The reduction in emissions in the coming years will be due to several factors, including the introduction of advanced technologies, the use of cleaner fuels, and the shipping companies' commitment to sustainability. The combined efforts will undoubtedly underscore the industry's commitment to reducing its environmental impact. Looking ahead, green corridors - trade routes that promote and support zero-emission shipping solutions - are seen as important tools to facilitate the decarbonization of the industry.

Within five years, vessels powered by clean ammonia could be operating on iron ore trade routes between Western Australia and East Asia. A study conducted by the West Australia-East Asia Iron Ore Green Corridor Consortium found that vessels powered by clean ammonia could be operating on iron ore trade routes between Western Australia and East Asia as early as 2028. In addition, the European shipping industry has already begun to address the future challenges of improving carbon emissions, as the European Parliament approved a package of climate measures in April that form the centrepiece of the "Fit for 55" emissions programme, which aims to reduce the EU's overall greenhouse gas footprint by 55 percent by 2030. Owners of large cargo ships will have to pay for allowances covering 40 percent of emissions in 2024, 70 percent in 2025 and 100 percent from 2026.

With the revival of bulk carrier and tanker freight rates still to come in 2023 and geopolitical uncertainties weighing heavily on shipping industry players, it remains to be seen what the decision-making process will look like for the rapid changes in green aspects by 2030.

Stay tuned for our next article on ship emissions and follow our platform to access data for fleet and ship emissions profiles. 

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