In the early days of maritime shipping, terms such as “green shipping” were still foreign. Ships sailed with the power of the wind and as sailing ships were completely free of emissions. This was to change only in the context of industrialization and with the emergence of the first steam ships.
At the end of the 19th century, ships without sails began to assert themselves and the first ship to operate completely with engines in deep-sea waters was the “Teutonic” of 1889. From the 20th century onwards, sailing ships were only a museum and cargo ships, but also passenger ships and fishing boats worked exclusively with combustion engines.
Shipping and environmental protection
The need for green shipping has arisen because an increasing international shipping fleet is making a significant contribution to marine pollution.
Although shipping is considered relatively environmentally friendly compared to air or road transport, the high sulphur content of the fuel is a serious problem. The specific energy consumption (SEC) can be used as a benchmark for emissions for the transport of one tonne over one kilometre, with ships at a value of five to ten and freighters at 400 to 600 g/t km.
However, green shipping is required as marine diesel results in increased sulphur dioxide emissions. In addition, there is CO2 and other emissions from shipping due to waste, oil, waste water, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Shipping accounts for around three percent of all man-made CO2 emissions, 15 percent for nitrogen oxide and 13 percent for sulphur dioxide.
The problems have been identified and more and more shipping companies and manufacturers of ship engines and ships are working on solutions that can be summarised under the generic term “Green Shipping”. It should be noted that this is not a clearly defined scientific term, but rather a collective term that can be interpreted in different ways.
What is Green Shipping?
If one translates the term Green Shipping, one could also speak of green shipping. This is about sustainability in the industry, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of world trade or handles it. More than 36,000 merchant ships are registered worldwide, which makes the relevance of the topic abundantly clear.
The new emission guidelines of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have been in force since 2020, followed by new guidelines for ballast water in 2022. The IMO is one of the driving forces behind green shipping and the European Union (EU) also published a “Strategy for the Reduction of Atmospheric Emissions from Seagoing Ships” in 2006, which ultimately amounts to more green shipping.
Measures for Green Shipping
The measures with which Green Shipping can be implemented are manifold. In practice, they are usually combined so that the individual procedures can only rarely be viewed in isolation. An effective way of reducing emissions is to use alternative fuels.
One example is liquid natural gas (LNG), which is only gradually being used. In 2013, there were around 100 merchant ships in the global LNG shipping industry. One of the problems here is the partly inadequate infrastructure of the ports.
Other Green Shipping measures include the supply of shore-side electricity. What seems unusual at first glance also makes sense because ships keep their engines running in ports and generally use heavy fuel oil. Shore power is also known as cold ironing and is a key factor in green shipping. The Port of Hamburg and Lübeck-Travemünde already have such facilities.
The list can also be extended to include the development of suitable filter technology. What already works in the automotive sector is also used in ships and green shipping. SCR catalysts help to reduce nitrogen emissions and desulphurisation plants also fall under the category of filter technology.
Of course, instead of heavy oil, it is also possible to run on the much more environmentally friendly marine diesel, but this is much more expensive.
Green Shipping as a rule
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set clear standards, particularly with regard to sulphur content. Since 2020, the sulphur content may only be half a percent. In the North Sea and Baltic Sea, only 0.1 percent is permitted anyway.
The next step would be to integrate shipping into the international trade of CO2 certificates. Maritime trade was also excluded under the Paris Climate Protection Agreement of 2015, but could be included in future agreements.
Financing of Green Shipping
Green Shipping also plays a major role in financing. In crowd investing projects, the modernisation of a ship and the conversion to environmentally friendly technologies may be secured by subordinated loans. In this way, it is possible both to invest in a sustainable future for shipping and to benefit from above-average returns.
What is certain is that Green Shipping will become increasingly important in the future and that those shipping companies are well positioned that are already recognising the signs of the times and navigating in the right direction.