Four strategies for cutting emissions

smoke stacks Image: Martin Adams on Unsplash

Changing trading patterns, slowing down ships, developing zero carbon fuel cells and reorganising businesses have all been proposed as strategies to reduce carbon emissions from the port and shipping industries.

Dr Martin Stopford, president of Clarkson Research, outlined these strategies at the annual ESPO conference in May - with his presentation recently covered in the quarterly edition of Government Europa, pointing out that if trade continues to grow at the rate it has been in growing at in the last 50 years, then this takes us up to 3bn tonnes of carbon. We need to cut back to 470m tonnes – 20%.

Addressing elements of industry that can be changed to work towards the Paris Climate Agreement target to reduce emissions by 100% by 2050, he identified changing trading patterns as one strategy to work on.

He said that “we have gotten used to very cheap transport and don’t think hard about how much carbon is involved. We need to reduce emissions without ruining people’s standard of living”.

10 knots proposal

Dr Stopford stated that ships can save an “enormous amount of fuel” if they slow down to 10 knots, while developing zero carbon fuel cells, such as hydrogen fuel cells should also be pursued, however the challenge is manufacturing them without producing carbon.

These three strategies can be realised by reorganising the way businesses are run, he said.

He added: “If we cut trade routes by 1% to 2.2% then we can cut the carbon footprint by over a billion tonnes of carbon by not moving things you don’t really to move. We also really need to ensure all of our fleets have half a fleet that has zero carbon propulsion. This does mean however; you will need a lot more ships – which emphasises importance of cleaning up our existing ships.”

Reflecting on containerisation and the resulting reduction in transport costs with bigger ships and bigger companies, but with the loss of short sea distribution systems, he said: “Bigger ships have put bigger rigidity into our system. The containers on our roads have high carbon footprint and we cannot envisage anything else. We need to consider alternatives.”

Decarbonisation challenges have been a major focus of discussions at London International Shipping Week.


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