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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Traditional hunting gets headlines, but is not the big threat to turtles and dugongs


Helene Marsh, James Cook University and Mark Hamann, James Cook University

Recent calls for a ban on legal traditional hunting of dugongs and marine turtles imply that hunting is the main threat to these iconic species in Australia. The science indicates otherwise.

While more is being done to address traditional hunting than any of the other impacts, the main threats to their survival often pass unnoticed.

The real threat to sea turtles

The draft Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia evaluated 20 threats to the 22 populations of Australia’s six species of marine turtle. Climate change and marine debris, particularly “ghost nets” lost or abandoned by fishers, are the greatest risks for most stocks.

If you’re a marine turtle, a likely cause of death is getting tangled in a discarded fishing net.
AAP Image/Department of Heritage and Government

Indigenous use is considered to be a high risk for three populations: Gulf of Carpentaria green turtles, Arafura Sea flatback turtles and north-eastern Arnhemland hawksbill turtles.

However, in each of these cases it is the egg harvest, not hunting, that causes concern. International commercial fishing is also a high risk for the hawksbill turtle, whose future remains uncertain. Traditional hunting of marine turtles in Australia is limited to green turtles.

Is hunting a threat?

The Torres Strait supports the largest dugong population in the world and a globally significant population of green turtles. Archaeological research shows that Torres Strait Islanders have been harvesting these species for more than 4,000 years and the dugong harvest has been substantial for several centuries.

Our research shows that the Torres Strait dugong population has been stable since we started monitoring 30 years ago and that the harvest of both species is sustainable.

The situation for dugongs is very different in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef south of Cooktown. The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report classifies the condition of the dugong population in this region as poor.

Modelling indicates that the southern Great Barrier Reef stock of the green turtle, which live and breed south of Cooktown, is increasing.

Nonetheless, both green turtles and dugongs died in record numbers in the year after the extreme floods and cyclones of the summer of 2010-11. Dugongs stopped breeding in the Great Barrier Reef region south of Cooktown.

Thankfully, our current aerial survey indicates that dugong calving has resumed as inshore seagrass habitats recover. There is no evidence that the 2011 losses significantly affected green turtle numbers.

Working together

Traditional owners are the first managers of our coastal waters, with cultural practices extending back thousands of years. They have the most to lose from any loss of turtles and dugongs. It is therefore in their best interests, and the government’s best interest, to work in partnership to protect and sustainably manage these species.

Longstanding tensions between traditional owners and tourist operators are behind much of the opposition to traditional hunting in the Cairns area. Some of these tensions have been relieved by the Gunggandji Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreement signed in June 2016.

Under this agreement, the traditional owners decided to cease hunting turtles and dugongs in the waters surrounding Green Island, Michaelmas Cay and Fitzroy Island.

The Gunggandji agreement is the seventh to be signed between the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and traditional owners. In addition, there are two Indigenous land use agreements that address hunting issues in the Great Barrier Reef.

In the Torres Strait, dugong and turtle hunting is managed through 14 (soon to be 15) management plans. There are similar agreements with traditional owners and management agencies in other regions in northern Australia.

Indigenous rangers are crucial to implementing all these agreements in collaboration with management agencies and research institutions. Rangers deliver the practical, on-the-ground arrangements to conserve these species in their Sea Country.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has implemented an Indigenous Compliance Program that authorises trained Indigenous rangers to respond to suspicious and illegal activities that they encounter as part of their work.

Indigenous rangers and community members from Badu Island in Torres Strait help JCU scientists fit a dugong with a satellite tracking device.
Takahiro Shimada/James Cook University

Indigenous rangers also remove marine debris from remote beaches. The community-based organisation GhostNets Australia has worked with 31 coastal Indigenous communities to protect over 3,000km of northern Australia’s saltwater country from ghost nets. These community projects have been instrumental in rescuing turtles, clearing ghost nets off beaches and identifying key areas to aid management agencies to better understand the impact.

Traditional owners from the Torres Strait and the northern Great Barrier Reef also play a valuable role in intervention works at Raine Island, one of the world’s most significant green turtle rookeries. This includes rescuing stranded turtles, using fences to stop turtles from falling over cliffs, and altering beach profiles.

What about welfare?

Traditional hunting raises animal welfare issues. The turtle and dugong management plans developed by the Torres Strait communities explicitly address animal welfare. The Torres Strait Regional Authority has been working with a marine mammal veterinarian and traditional owners to develop additional methods of killing turtles humanely.

Indigenous hunters who breach state and territory animal welfare laws can be prosecuted. But more widespread animal welfare problems, not associated with hunting, are largely hidden and ignored. The Queensland Strand Net Program reported that 879 turtles died of their wounds from vessel strike between 2000 and 2011.

An immature female loggerhead turtle severely injured by a boat strike near Gladstone. This turtle was determined to be unrecoverable and was euthanased by a local veterinarian in May 2016.
Takahiro Shimada/James Cook University

Other serious animal welfare issues are associated with animals drowning in nets and being caught in and ingesting marine debris. In addition, the potential impact of emerging threats like underwater noise pollution and water quality remain as substantial knowledge gaps. These matters tend not to make the headlines.

Australian waters are home to some of the world’s largest populations of marine turtles and dugongs. A comprehensive and balanced approach to their conservation and management is required to enable our grandchildren and their children to enjoy these amazing animals.

The Conversation

Helene Marsh, Dean, Graduate Research, James Cook University and Mark Hamann, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science (marine focus), James Cook University

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

Australia: Uluru – To Climb or Not to Climb?


The link below is to an article that looks at Uluru and the traditional owners desire that people not climb the rock. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

For more visit:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/09/people-still-climbing-uluru-closure

Article: Traditional Ownership In Northern Territory Deal


The link below is to an article that reports on the return of parcels of land in the Northern Territory of Australia to traditional owners of the land.

For more visit:
http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/nt-traditional-owners-get-their-land-back-20120718-22akh.html

Good News for Visitors to Uluru


303 There are always pros and cons when it comes to such issues as to whether or not people should be allowed to climb Uluru in the Northern Territory, Australia. To continue to allow visitors to climb the monolith is to go against the wishes of the traditional owners of the site (local aborigines), as well as to continue to impact on the local environs of the Uluru area.

Having said that however, the Uluru site is a site of major significance in Australia and to visitors the world over. If the site is looked after responsibly visitors should be able to climb the rock for many years to come with limited impact to the site.

Currently some 100 000 people climb the rock each year, though a number get no further than ‘chicken rock.’

Visitors will be able to continue to climb Uluru until such time as numbers dwindle significantly (to fewer than 20% of visitors climbing the rock), until such time as the climb is no longer the main reason for a visit to the rock or until a number of new visitor experiences (yet to be developed/thought out) are in place.

BUSH HERITAGE AUSTRALIA – Update September 2008


One of the groups I have a lot of time for in Australia and one which I am planning to support in a more active way in the New Year (once I get back on my feet so to speak) is Bush Heritage Australia.

Bush Heritage Australia is actively seeking to protect 1% of Australia by 2025, ensuring the protection of our unique flora, fauna and wild places. This is done through purchasing land by money donated to it by those wanting to protect the Australian environment and natural heritage. Bush Heritage currently owns some 1 million hectares, meaning it needs to acquire a further 6 million hectares to obtain its 2025 goal.

In September 2008, Bush Heritage Australia purchased the 8 100 hectare Edgbaston Station, 140km north-east of Longreach in Queensland for 3.5 million dollars. In doing so, Bush Heritage has ensured the survival of Australia’s most endangered and smallest freshwater fish species, the Redfin Blue-Eye Fish. This region is the only location in which this fish species now lives.

But it is not only the Redfin Blue-Eye Fish that will be protected by the purchase of this property as this region and the springs found on the property is the only known habitat for several other species of fish, snails, plants and a crustacean.

The springs on Edgbaston Station are located in the upper catchment of Pelican Creek which flows into the Thompson River and Lake Eyre. There are some 50 artesian springs on the property, supporting a large diversity of life.

The 3.5 million dollars required for the purchase of Edgbaston Station included 1.324 Million dollars from the Australian government’s Maintaining Australia’s Biodiversity Hotspots program and donations from the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water and the Queensland Department for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation.

Bush Heritage will be working alongside of the Iningai people, who are the traditional owners of the land on which Edgbaston Station is located, to manage the property.

For information on what you can do to assist Bush heritage Australia or to get more information on any of the reserves managed by Bush heritage Australia visit the web site below.

http://www.bushheritage.org.au/