Plain sailing: how traditional methods could deliver zero-emission shipping



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The Avontuur recently completed a sail-powered transatlantic cargo voyage.
Timbercoast

Christiaan De Beukelaer, University of Melbourne

On May 10, the 43.5-metre schooner Avontuur arrived in the port of Hamburg. This traditional sailing vessel, built in 1920, transported some 70 tonnes of coffee, cacao and rum across the Atlantic. The shipping company Timbercoast, which owns and operates Avontuur, says it aims to prove that sailing ships can offer an environmentally sustainable alternative to the heavily polluting shipping industry, despite being widely seen as a technology of yesteryear.




Read more:
The urgency of curbing pollution from ships, explained


Similar initiatives exist across the world. In the Netherlands, Fairtransport operates two vessels on European and transatlantic routes. In France, Transoceanic Wind Transport sails multiple vessels across the English Channel and Atlantic Ocean, and along European coasts. The US-based vessel Kwai serves islands in the Pacific. And Sail Cargo, based in Costa Rica, is building Ceiba, a zero-emission cargo sailing ship.

Transporting cargo by sail is both a practical response to climate change and a contribution to a larger debate.

These initiatives have an environmental objective: transporting cargo without generating greenhouse gas emissions. But are they really a viable alternative to today’s huge fossil-fuelled maritime cargo transport industry?

Shipping emission targets?

On April 13, 2018, the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations body that regulates shipping, agreed for the first time to limit the sector’s greenhouse emissions. It’s targeting a 50% reduction by 2050 (relative to 2008 levels), with the aim to phase out emissions entirely.

This was a breakthrough, given that both the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement exclude international shipping (and international aviation) from emissions targets, because these are so hard to attribute to individual countries.

Conventional seaborne cargo transport is relatively energy-efficient. It emits less greenhouse gas per tonne-kilometre (one tonne of goods transported over one kilometre) than transport by train, truck or plane. But because 80-90% of all goods we consume are transported by sea, the total emissions of the shipping industry are immense.

According to figures from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), shipping accounts for 2-3% of global emissions – outstripping the 2% share generated by civil aviation.

As the global demand for goods increases, so does the need for shipping. As a result, the IMO has projected that the sector’s greenhouse emissions will grow by anything between 50% and 250% between 2012 and 2050, despite improvements in fuel composition and efficiency. More worryingly, a commentary on that report in Nature Climate Change warns that “none of the anticipated shipping scenarios even approach what is necessary for the sector to make its ‘fair and proportionate’ contribution to avoiding 2℃ of warming”.

A recent report commissioned by the European Parliament raises further alarm bells, underscoring the fact that the sector’s huge growth is likely to swamp any carbon savings that come from improved operations. On top of this, the significant progress made in other industries means that the relative share of greenhouse gas emissions from cargo shipping is likely to increase from the current 2-3% to 17% by 2050.

Yo ho ho, shipping rum the old-fashioned way aboard the Aventuur.
Timbercoast

Zero-emission vessels?

The OECD International Transport Forum is less pessimistic. It projects a 23% increase in the sector’s emissions between 2015 and 2035 on current trends, but also argues that it will be possible to decarbonise maritime transport altogether by 2035, through the “maximum deployment of currently known technologies”.

These emissions-reducing propulsion technologies include kites, solar electricity, and advanced sail technology. Some of them, such as Flettner rotors, are already in use. But these will not be scaled up and become viable unless there is strict regulation, even if some shipping companies have taken steps to reduce their emissions ahead of a binding IMO target. Electricity-propelled container barges operate in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the IMO faced a tricky balancing act in juggling the priorities of different countries. Climate-vulnerable nations such as the Marshall Islands want shipping emissions to be cut entirely by 2035. The European Union has proposed a reduction of 70-100% by 2050, while emerging economies such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India have argued against any emissions target at all. Despite these differences, the IMO did agree on a 50% reduction target by 2050 in April 2018.

Sail cargo

It took Avontuur 126 days to sail from France to Honduras, Mexico, Cuba and home to Germany. But conventional container ships can cross the Atlantic in about a week. Avontuur was carrying more than 70 tonnes of cargo on arrival in Germany. But many cargo vessels now carry more than 20,000 standard shipping containers (TEU), each weighing more than 2 tonnes and able to hold more than 20 tonnes of cargo.

Given the relatively small capacity of sailing ships, it is expensive and labour-intensive to ship cargo this way. But despite these limitations, support for sail cargo initiatives is growing. A consortium of small North Sea ports, for example, will “create sail cargo hubs in small ports and harbours, giving local businesses direct access to ethically transported goods”.

Ceiba, a new sailing vessel builds on traditional skills and incorporates new technologies to help attain global carbon emission targets.

These initiatives signal the revival of sail cargo with an explicit environmental agenda, although this effort is dwarfed by the scale of the global shipping industry. But while they don’t stack up in logistical terms, these voyages can help us see the possibilities for a world without fossil fuels. Sail cargo aims to rethink not only the means of propulsion for cargo vessels, but the entire scale, economy and ethics of cargo transport.

Traditional sailing vessels like Avontuur will not be able to compete with conventional cargo vessels on speed, scale or cost. But they help us focus on the underlying issue. We ship too much, too often and too far. The scale of shipping is unsustainable. That is why we need a change of mindset as much as a change of technology.

The ConversationSail cargo initiatives raise awareness about the devastating environmental effects of conventional cargo shipping. And they do so by showing that an alternative is possible. Indeed, it has been around for thousands of years.

Christiaan De Beukelaer, Lecturer in Cultural Policy, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The shipping sector is finally on board in the fight against climate change



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Australia will have to regulate its considerable shipping industry.
PomInAus/shutterstock.com

Beatriz Garcia, Western Sydney University and Jolene Lin, National University of Singapore

For the first time, the massive global shipping sector has agreed to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in what’s been called a “historic” moment.

Maritime shipping, which carries about 80% of global trade by volume, contributes around A$9 billion directly to Australia’s gross domestic product, and A$11.8 billion indirectly.




Read more:
Three ways to improve commercial shipping’s environmental footprint


Sea transport has a relatively green image because ships emit less carbon dioxide per tonne and per kilometre than rail, truck or air transport. Yet, given its scale and rapid growth, it’s a major source of carbon emissions. Maritime transport emits around 1,000 million tonnes of CO₂ a year and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The international law

Despite being a major contributor to climate change, the powerful shipping industry has successfully lobbied to be excluded from obligations to reduce emissions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and, more recently, the 2015 Paris Agreement.

There are also no sector-wide emission reduction targets in maritime shipping under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In other key policy spaces, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), there are no obligations imposed on either states or shipping corporations to reduce maritime emissions.

Countries could potentially set emissions targets domestically, but they rarely set sectoral targets, especially for sectors that are heavily exposed to international trade. In this context, the shipping industry has been particularly footloose in its response to climate change.

It is therefore a cause for celebration that decades of negotiation have now yielded this agreement. The deal requires all IMO countries to reduce shipping emissions by 50% compared with 2008 levels.

Ships will be required to be more energy-efficient and to use cleaner energy such as solar and wind electricity generation. Currently, the shipping industry is overwhelmingly reliant on dirty, carbon-rich fuels such as heavy diesel.

Some stormy seas ahead

The climate deal has been described as “historic”, but not all countries are on board. Some, particularly island nations that are vulnerable to sea level rise, wanted a “far, far more ambitious” target. Others, including the United States, Brazil, Panama and Saudi Arabia, are strongly against it. Reconciling these differences will be a difficult task for the IMO.

It has always been technically difficult to accurately calculate the precise amount of fuel used during shipping operations. It’s even harder to allocate maritime emissions to specific countries.

Contributing to the potential confusion is the use of “flags of convenience”. This is where a ship’s owners register the vessel in a country other than their own, and fly the flag of the country where registered.

This is usually done to disguise the relationship between the vessel and its actual owner, due to the attractive, lower regulatory burdens that some open registries offer. Shipping corporations could also use flags of convenience to avoid mandatory emission reduction targets.

The way forward

As a result of the climate deal, states will eventually need to introduce domestic laws setting emission reduction targets for their shipping industry.

These targets could also be applied to ships that call at their ports. The good news is that there is potential synergy between such regulation and existing laws, such as the European Union regulation that requires ship owners and operators to monitor, report and verify CO₂ emissions from certain vessels that dock at European ports.




Read more:
Five ways the shipping industry can reduce its carbon emissions


The new climate deal has the potential to change the way shipping companies operate. It presents an opportunity for the shipping industry to become part of the solution rather than the problem when it comes to climate change.

The ConversationIt’s also a strong signal to other international industries, such as the aviation sector, that have largely escaped emissions reduction targets. If we can reduce emissions in such a large and complex sector as marine transport, it bodes well for the capacity of international frameworks to tackle other difficult problems.

Beatriz Garcia, Lecturer, Western Sydney University and Jolene Lin, Director, Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law, National University of Singapore

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Three ways to improve commercial shipping’s environmental footprint



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A man stretches his leg on the bank of the Han River as a ship passes by amid thick haze. Tens of thousands of premature deaths in east Asia every year are caused by shipping pollution.
REUTERS/Stringer

Martina Doblin, University of Technology Sydney

Do you wear runners, drink coffee or own a mobile phone? The chances are that these products cruised to you on a ship. In 2015, the global merchant fleet carried a record 10 billion tonnes of cargo, a 2.1% increase from the previous year. The Conversation

However, while it’s an essential part of international trade, shipping also poses serious risks to the environment. Apart from damage caused by dredging shipping channels and the spread of marine pests around the world, there is also growing concern about pollution. According to a report from the European Union, international shipping contributes 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually. This is predicted to rise by between 50% and 250% by 2050.

As well as contributing to global warming, ship pollution includes toxic compounds and particles that cause a host of other health hazards. A 2016 Chinese-led study found the shipping boom in east Asia has caused tens of thousands of premature deaths a year, largely from heart and lung disease and cancer.

Commercial ships are designed to be used for a long time. As a result, their engines are typically older and less efficient than those used in many other industries, and replacing them is prohibitively expensive. But there are some immediate solutions to this problem that use existing technology: increasing fuel quality, treating engine emissions, and adopting other energy-conservation measures so that ships burn less fuel.

Improve fuel quality

When diesel ship engines burn poor-quality fuel, their smoke stacks release oxides of nitrogen and sulfur as well as carbon. These pollutants, as well as contributing to greenhouse warming, are highly toxic. Sulfur dioxide readily dissolves in water, creating acid rain that causes harm to both people and the environment.

Refinement of crude oil removes sulfur, which reduces the amount of sulfur dioxide produced when the fuel is burned. Higher-grade diesel also reduces the volume of heat-trapping nitrous oxide, but is more expensive to produce because it requires more purification at the refinery.

The International Maritime Organization, the UN body that regulates the safety and security of shipping, is planning to reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in fuel. However, it is currently considering whether the change will take place in 2020 or will be deferred to 2025.

Install exhaust scrubbers

Clean fuel is an important part of reducing emissions, but the higher cost of low-sulfur fuel will deter many companies. Another way for ships to meet clean-air requirements is by capturing engine exhaust and passing it through scrubbers. These scrubbers convert nitrous oxide gases into harmless nitrogen and water.

This process requires retrofitting older ships, and updating the design of new ship exhaust systems. One advantage of this approach is that it allows ships to meet the different pollution regulations around the world without having to swap fuels.

Another way to reduce production of nitrous oxide is by reducing the temperature at which diesel fuel burns, but this leads to decreased fuel efficiency and increased fuel consumption. Scrubbers are potentially a cheaper and more accessible option.

Reduce energy use overall

Ships don’t just burn diesel fuel to propel themselves through the water. Fuel also generates electricity so that people on board can do things like use computers and read at night.

To increase fuel efficiency, other energy conservation measures can be adopted so that ships burn less fuel and decrease their emissions. The US Navy’s Green Fleet has, for example, replaced their old light fixtures with energy-saving LEDs.

They have also undertaken a temperature control initiative, where thermostats have been checked to ensure they are in proper working order and faulty parts in their water cooling systems replaced. Some ships have gone further, and installed stern flaps that modify the flow of water under the ship’s hull to reduce drag, thus increasing fuel efficiency.

All of this means the shipping industry can lower its fuel bill through conserving energy, and at the same time reduce its negative impacts on the health of humans and the planet. With more than 20,000 ships in the global fleet, these immediate solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other types of pollution will make a real difference.

Martina Doblin, Senior Research Fellow, Plant Functional Biology & Climate Change, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

RISING TIDE PROTEST IN NEWCASTLE: COAL INDUSTRY THE TARGET


Climate change activists under the ‘Rising Tide’ banner conducted what was called on the day the ‘People’s Protest’ in Newcastle yesterday. The protest was an attempt to shut down the Port of Newcastle in Australia, which is the largest exporter of coal in the world.

Despite the protesters claim that they had successfully blockaded the harbour, the authorities had previously arranged for there to be no shipping movements on the day in the interests of safety. The protesters used kayaks and various home-made ‘boats’ to form the blockade near Horseshoe Beach. About 500 people took part in the protest.

A police presence was very active during the protest to ensure safety and to prevent any form of crime.

Rising Tide is preaching a message of anti-coal and pro-renewable energy for our future.

NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon took part in the protest.

The protesters block the harbour entrance

The protesters block the harbour entrance

 

 

 

The police maintained an active presence

The police maintained an active presence

 

The police maintained an active presence

The police maintained an active presence

AUSTRALIA: ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER UNFOLDING ON QUEENSLAND COAST


An environmental disaster is unfolding on the Queensland coast, with the oil spill from the Hong Kong-flagged ship Pacific Adventurer. The Pacific Adventurer was badly damaged during the Cyclone Hamish weather event last week.

The Pacific Adventurer somehow managed to get caught up in the cyclone despite very early warnings concerning the cyclone. Some 31 containers containing ammonium nitrate were washed into the sea during the cyclone and as this occurred the ship itself was badly damaged, leaking some 230 tonnes of oil into the ocean. The initial report from the ship was that some 30 tonnes of oil had been lost.

The environmental disaster is huge, with the oil now affecting over 60km of coastline, including the eastern coast of Moreton Island. Sea life is being severely impacted by the disaster.

The cleanup is being done at a rate of about 1 to 2 km a day, which means it will take quite some time to complete.

Also of concern are the 31 containers of ammonium nitrate that are still missing and which could further contaminate the region. Navy mine hunters are being called in to search for the containers which remain a shipping hazard.