How Can The Maritime Industry Adapt to Climate Change?

A vast majority of the world’s merchandise comes from the sea, so it’s easy to see how it contributes to climate change. The maritime industry’s emissions are sizable, with many ships burning fossil fuels at an astounding rate. Their carbon monoxide emissions can be massive, especially as global demand rises. Regardless, the maritime industry has many ways to shift to reduce its environmental impact. From superior weather routing to using cleaner fuels, there’s how the industry can adapt to manmade climate change.

Impact Of Maritime Emissions On The Climate

The maritime shipping sector contributes about 2.5% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, most of which comes from liquid fuel combustion. International shipping, mainly powered by petroleum, is the world’s largest segment of the transport industry and has become a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The oceans are the planet’s largest natural carbon sink, absorbing 10 to 40 percent of the CO2 humans put into the air each year. This makes them a vital regulator of the Earth’s temperature and climate. Emissions from marine vessels, including cargo ships and locomotives, have increased significantly in recent years due to the growing demand for cheaper goods.

When a vessel burns oil to power its engines, that heated, dirty exhaust is vented into the sea. Those pollutants, like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides, can cause health problems for marine life and people. While 2.5% emissions seem low, the number is growing each year. Projections show that GHG emissions from the industry can grow anywhere between 50 to 250% in 2050, putting a heavier strain on the environment.

How The Maritime Industry Can Adapt

The supply chain for shipping companies is changing, and new technologies and approaches are promising to reduce the sector’s environmental impacts significantly. As drivers switch to electric vehicles and industries adopt renewable energy solutions, the same is true for the cruise and shipping communities. 

Reducing ships’ fuel consumption and incorporating alternative energy sources are also ways the sailing community can reduce their overall carbon emissions. Many ports now offer shore power for visiting boats, allowing captains to switch off their engines while docked. 

1. Building Battery Storage

Simply reducing a ship’s carbon footprint won’t be enough. The industry must invest in battery technology to run more efficiently. The global demand for batteries continues to accelerate, providing new opportunities for the maritime industry. 

This worldwide growth in battery storage is expected to continue, especially in maritime transportation. The electrification of ferries, tugboats, and other maritime equipment is happening faster than expected. However, many maritime that adopt higher battery storage are primarily for light duty applications.

The growth of lithium-ion batteries for ships and upcoming regulations, such as the EU Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), in conjunction with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), will lead to considerably improved energy efficiency in the sector.  

2. Reducing Fuel Consumption

Alternative energy, such as solar, wind, and wave, is another way to reduce the overall CO2 emissions from cruise ships, freighters, and other industrial ships that use traditional fossil fuels to propel themselves. Even small changes, such as replacing incandescent lights with LEDs, can lower energy use by up to 50 percent. Solar panels can be installed on decks, acting as a source of energy for passengers in port. Wind and biofuel sources can also be used to generate electricity for power sources. 

Bigger changes, such as improving hydrodynamic hull designs and enhancing engine efficiency, could also reduce the energy consumption of a large container ship to the equivalent of a conventional car. Along with other innovations, this can help the industry significantly reduce its reliance on heavy fuel oil, which accounts for a good chunk of carbon dioxide emissions from international shipping. Ship owners can also use cleaner fuels, including low-sulfur oil.

3. Transition To Green Hydrogen

Another sustainable type of energy source is hydrogen. Not only does it release zero-emission, but fuel cells can also produce electricity much faster than their traditional counterparts. The transition from conventional, polluting diesel fuel to green hydrogen revolutionizes the global shipbuilding, commercial, and passenger vessel sectors.  

Introducing fuel cells and new economic development strategies are transforming how new and existing fleets operate. Only zero-emission fuel cell solutions are under consideration for new projects. The growing popularity of green methanol in conventional diesel engines is one step toward this technology’s transition. It helps reduce levels of particulates, nitrous oxide, and hydrocarbon, which are elements that harm air quality and human health.  

4. Weather Routing 

Weather is essential in a shipping company’s smooth and safe operation. Navigating rough seas and unfavorable weather conditions could be costly and dangerous. Weather conditions, such as storms and waves, significantly influence how far a boat can sail. If bad weather disrupts the usual routes, the ship has to make unexpected stops. 

In addition, the weather can significantly impact cargo and passenger fleets’ speed and handling characteristics.  For example, a 20-foot increase in sea level results in a 15% decrease in vessel speed. The maritime industry can use weather routing to avoid severe weather, which provides an integrated predictive assessment of conditions, 10-day forecasts, and dynamic 100-nautical mile routes. During difficult and adverse situations, the vessel can be diverted to other favorable locations. This saves time, money, and repairs. Today, there isn’t any limit to where in the world a ship can go. With advancements in forecasting tools, a ship can now avoid bad weather before it even has a chance to develop.  

5. Avoid Shipping Empty Containers

While a streamlined logistics system helps get products to market faster, environmental costs need to be considered. The freight containers that move around the globe with goods are a significant source of air pollutants.  Another way to cut fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gases from large containers is to limit their idling time. This also helps free up space on larger, transporting bulker carriers.  By reducing the number of empty journeys, the fleet can move more freight with less effort. This, in turn, lowers operating costs and reduces their environmental footprint.   

The Bottom Line

The need to protect the environment is a priority for many businesses. The implications of global warming are dangerous, which is why responsible enterprises are finding ways to reduce their footprint. Every minute of every day, companies are working to create a greener world for future generations. Adapting to climate change is a crucial point for the maritime industry. Starting now can ensure that the future is still secure for the maritime sector and the entire world.

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Chatty Garrate
About Chatty Garrate 14 Articles
Chatty is a freelance writer from Manila. She finds joy in inspiring and educating others through writing. That's why aside from her job as a language evaluator for local and international students, she spends her leisure time writing about various topics such as lifestyle, technology, and business.

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