Green shipping is gaining speed

The Ocean of Pyxis contains...

The Pyxis ocean has “sails” that help the boat harness wind energy. / Cargill

In August, a cargo ship known as Ocean boxes He raised his sails. The ship, about 230 meters (750 feet) long, is equipped with a pair of “sails” made of steel and fibre-reinforced plastic to harness wind energy during the long voyage from Shanghai to Paranagua, Brazil. (Read: The story of the discovery of five new species of snakes in Colombia)

The Pyxis Ocean still uses its traditional engine, but, along with making precise steering decisions, its new sails will help reduce the amount of fuel it burns on international voyages, says Simon Schofield, chief technology officer at BAR Technologies, based in the US. The kingdom that designed the sails.

“We’re making use of the same elements we’ve used for hundreds of years, but we’re doing it in a more efficient way,” says the expert.

Schofield, a veteran yacht racing engineer, helped found BAR Technologies in 2016, hoping the insights of his older cousin would Sexual Maritime transport can serve as tools for maritime industries to modernize and meet challenges Climate change.

he Shipping It is a great resource for Greenhouse gas emissions. National and international fishing and shipping together generated more than 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, accounting for nearly 3% of all human-caused emissions, according to the UN report. International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations agency that oversees the safety and security of the shipping industry.

However, travel is the lifeblood of global trade: the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimated that ships carried about 11 billion tons of goods in 2021, representing more than 80% of global trade. For example, the ship Pyxis Ocean was chartered for its sailing by the American agricultural giant Cargill. Upon arrival in Brazil, the cargo ship picked up approximately 63,000 metric tons of soybean meal for transport to Poland. (Read: Primates and other mammals in the country’s dry tropical forests at risk)

If the industry doesn’t change, shipping emissions are likely to increase, says Benjamin Halpern, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “All economic forecasts for trade indicate that it will continue to become increasingly global,” he adds. “Every year, there are more people buying more products.”

The International Maritime Organization has predicted that in 2050, greenhouse gas emissions from shipping will reach up to 130% of their 2008 levels. This sector could also begin to impact new areas of the world, as the Arctic warms and declines. Sea ice, which could open new horizons. shipping methods, says Casey O’Hara, a conservation data scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“he The country that It’s not business as usual. This upward trend will continue and may have repercussions in some of the most virgin places in the world.

While shipping is only a small part of the bigger picture affecting the world’s oceans, reducing some pressures on marine life can help make ecosystems more resilient to other stressors, such as noise pollution, fishing and coastal development, O’Hara adds. In 2022, in collaboration with Halpern, he prepared a descriptive study on the increasing pressures on marine systems in the Mediterranean region. Annual review of environment and resources.

With all this at stake, the 175 member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently voted unanimously to adopt a more ambitious set of climate targets. These new targets, agreed in July 2023, will see countries strive to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by around 2050. In 2030, countries committed to aiming to reduce annual emissions of international shipping by at least 20%, compared to their targets. 2008 levels, and by 2040 by no less than 70%. Remaining emissions can be “offset” with carbon removal or sequestration projects, to complete the net zero emissions target.

That’s “light years” from the IMO’s previous 2018 strategy, which targeted cutting carbon emissions by just 50% by 2050, says Delaine McCullough, director of shipping emissions policy at the environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy. But he adds that even the latter strategy may require deeper emissions cuts early on, to avoid temporarily exceeding key global warming benchmarks. (Read: Biorefineries facing high fertilizer prices in Colombia)

How can maritime transport achieve the new IMO goals? In the short term, a few technical and operational changes could make a big difference in reducing emissions, McCullough says. In June 2023, sustainable energy and transport research organization CE Delft published a study suggesting that a combination of measures could, under certain conditions, reduce emissions by between 28% and 47%. These measures include slowing ships so they burn less fuel, adding wind power, and blending a small percentage of alternative fuels.

One of the major changes is likely to be widespread adoption of green fuels, says Pernille Dalgaard, director of government affairs, business and analysis at the Maersk McKinney-Muller Center for Zero-Carbon Shipping, a research organization that works with the maritime and energy sector. Industries. Today, many ships are operated by Fuel oil Heavy, or bunkered, is a relatively inexpensive fossil fuel that is widely available for resupply in ports.

The two main competing alternatives so far are green methanol and e-ammonia, but neither fuel is ready for widespread use, Dalgaard says. He adds that it is difficult to obtain green methanol in the required quantities, and electronic ammonia poses safety risks. Both options are more expensive than conventional fuel.

Uncertainty about future fuels — or fuels — poses a greater challenge in the shipping industry, because ships typically have a useful life of about 25 years, Dahlgaard says. “Ships sailing now will continue to do so in 2050,” he says. “So, when you order a ship today, you have to think about your strategy for getting to net zero in 2050.”

Furthermore, alternative fuels must be made available upon arrival of compatible vessels. This requires that technological investment in ships go hand in hand with fuel development, as do investments in land transport, infrastructure and port operations, says Jesse Fahnestock, decarbonisation project director at the World Maritime Forum, an international not-for-profit organisation.

Fahnestock calls for the creation of “green shipping corridors”: shipping routes that support ships that use alternative fuels. The corridors will require the cooperation of a wide range of actors, including ports, governments, fuel suppliers and ship owners. In this sense, this effort is very much like a proving ground for the future global transformation of this industry.

“Decarbonizing everything at once is a huge challenge,” says Fahnestock. He adds that green corridors could provide a way to “reduce the scale of this challenge, while continuing to pursue it on a large commercial and industrial scale.”

However, achieving the industry’s lofty goals will likely require much greater restructuring. Whether it’s smart technologies, alternative fuels or green lanes, decarbonizing the shipping sector won’t happen solely at the initiative of the private sector, most experts say. It’s a “trillion-dollar investment,” Dahlgaard says. McCullough believes national governments will likely need to develop new regulations and economic policies, such as an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax.

“If we can unite two really strong technical and market measures, they can be very powerful in driving the industry,” says the expert.

The challenges are enormous, but for Fahnestock, the IMO’s latest strategy will at least help chart a course. “There is now a long-term strategy,” he says. “Now we know that the journey to zero will continue until zero.”

*This article was originally published on Knowable in Spanish.

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