The Carbon War Room, an independent organisation of entrepreneurs dedicated to beating climate change, is demanding that all ships carry an energy efficiency rating.
The Carbon War Room already carries out its own rating of vessels on its website shippingefficiency.org, a free resource for anyone wanting to know the efficiency of a ship before making a business decision.
The ratings are estimates but the Carbon War Room believes there is only a one to two percent margin of error.
For example, the four-year-old Emma Maersk, the biggest containership in the world, gets a C rating, while the 38-year-old P&O Nedlloyd Liverpool gets an E rating.
A key move in cleaning up ships’ emissions is to get vessels to move away from using bunker fuel. “Bunker fuel is just waste oil, basically what is left over after all the cleaner fuels have been extracted from crude oil,” said Christian Eyde Moller, chief executive of shipping technology company DK Group. “It’s tar, the same as asphalt. It’s the cheapest and dirtiest fuel in the world.
“The world’s shipping fleet has grown very quickly. Ships are getting bigger and bigger, and they are burning more. Their engines are now more efficient, which means they can burn thicker fuels, so they are emitting more pollution. The industry is more efficient per container than ever, but it has been ignoring fuel consumption and its corresponding impact on the environment and health.”
A potential answer is that some ships offer the potential to convert to gas. Global risk managers and ship certification company DNV carried out a study of shipping emissions. DNV executive vice-president Remi Eriksen said: “Many believe that gas is tomorrow’s fuel. We at DNV think it is already here. LNG as a fuel offers obvious environmental benefits.”
He added that “for a switch to LNG to happen, certain elements need to be in place. The technology is there, as many manufacturers are offering LNG fuelled engines already. A challenge is the loss of cargo space due to cylindrical LNG storage tank. For newbuildings it is fairly simple to find space for the larger fuel tanks, while this may be more difficult for retrofitting on existing ship”.
“There is an abundance of natural gas in the world. When we add unconventional resources – like shale gas – there is a 250-year supply at current usage. The spot price of LNG is already at one fourth to one third the price of diesel oil. LNG needs to be offered with a price linked to the spot market price rather than the prices of the marine diesel that it may replace.”
It is estimated that shipping accounts for 3.3% of CO2 emissions in the world. It contributes around £10bn a year to the UK’s GDP and the country’s maritime industry employs more than 200,000 people. While few ships are actually built in the UK, the country remains one of the world’s leading providers of marine services such as insurance and finance.