©Michael Zapf

Environmental congress gmec: The search for a clean course

After IMO 2020 is before IMO 2050 – the radical reduction of sulphur emissions was an important milestone. The next one will be to cut climate-damaging CO2 emissions in half. Around the world scientists are exploring a wide range of technologies to make ships more eco-friendly. A review of the latest developments was on the agenda of gmec, the environmental conference during SMM DIGITAL. Representatives of the shipping industry discussed how to implement feasible technical solutions and took on critical questions from environmental organisations.

The 2020 Sulphur Cap has been implemented successfully. By switching to low-sulphur fuels or retrofitting exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers), ships around the world have become cleaner. But that is by no means the end of the IMO's ecological agenda. It wants the industry's carbon dioxide emissions to be cut in half by 2050. A decision made last November tightened the rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Soon fleet operators will have to achieve compliance with the new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI), the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and an expanded Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). But what measures and technologies are needed in the medium and long term to fulfil the CO2 regulations? Answers were given during the first two online panels of the global maritime environment congress (gmec). The cooperation partner of this event was again Seatrade Maritime.

Small effort – great impact
"The simplest and most effective method to reduce CO2 emissions is engine power limitation,” said Rasmus Stute, Area Business Development Manager Germany at DNV GL – Maritime. "Reducing engine power by 50per cent enables an improvement of the EEXI value by up to 30per cent – while reducing the travelling speed by no more than 20per cent,” he calculated.
Other technologies such as wind-assisted propulsion or more efficient rudder systems have only minor effects on the CO2 footprint, however. Battery technology, on the other hand, is entirely emission-free. But this alternative is "only feasible in short-sea shipping, for example in ferries, not in major liners,” contended DNV GL expert Stute.
In the medium term, LNG propulsion will get the upper hand in this segment, he declared. Liquefied natural gas causes 20per cent lower CO2 emissions than conventional ship fuel. One of the first movers has been Hapag-Lloyd. "We just converted a large containership, our 'Brussels Express’, to eco-friendly propulsion with LNG," reported Wolfram Guntermann, Director Environmental Fleet Management at the Hamburg-based shipping company. In addition, the company has ordered six LNG-powered newbuilds, each with a capacity of 23,500 TEU.

No champion in sight
The cruise company AIDA not only relies on LNG but also uses fuel cell technology, which is especially clean. A system has been installed on board "AIDAnova". It operates on methanol. But the company has higher ambitions for the future: "By the year 2030 we want to present the first emission-neutral cruise ship ever," said Hansjörg Kunze, communications chief at AIDA Cruises. He stressed that these are long-term investment plans, and criticised bureaucratic obstacles to the use of environment-friendly technologies: "We had to fill in ten metres of paper forms just for the permission to bunker LNG in port."
Other potential alternative fuels, such as ammonia, hydrogen produced using eco-friendly wind power (power-to-X), biofuels and synthetic fuels were discussed, at times critically, by the second expert panel. Availability can be an especially tricky issue. "Biofuels can cover 10per cent of the global demand at best," said Dirk Bergmann, Chief Technical Officer at ABB Turbo Systems. What is more, the shipping industry has to compete for these fuels with other industries. “Power-to-X fuels are used by energy-intensive industries such as cement manufacturing," explained Jakob Steffensen, Head of Innovation and Technology at the ferry operator DFDS Seeway. Like other panellists he urged the maritime sector to intensify cooperation. The proposal to establish an international research fund financed through a fuel surcharge was welcomed by all panel experts. Such a fund should be able to raise five billion dollars. Its purpose would be to support projects aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

Dirty is still too cheap
The debate heated up during the third gmec session where environmental activists confronted leaders of the maritime industry. For the first time the panel included a representative of the Fridays for Future (FFF) movement. "We are the pain in the arse the maritime industry needs to speed up its decarbonisation. The measures taken to date are insufficient. Being dirty is still too cheap," said Arnaud Boehmann from FFF. The goal of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050 will fail to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, he pointed out. Lars Robert Pedersen, Deputy Secretary General of the international shipping association BIMCO, took an entirely different view, emphasising that the shipping sector has been the only industry to date to agree on globally enforceable rules. "The IMO has done an excellent job. The 2050 target is highly ambitious,” he said.
Bud Darr, Executive Vice President of MSC, indicated that his company aims to become climate neutral "as soon as possible". But there is simply a lack of suitable fuels, he contended. He called upon leading fuel manufacturers to take action, warning: "We have to realise that there will not be that one shiny fuel solution. We need diverse options that we can combine like pieces of a puzzle,” Darr said.

A view shared by Peter Müller-Baum, Managing Director of the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA): "From a technological perspective it is not difficult to build an engine for, say, ammonia. What remains unclear is the fuel supply situation, which is why nobody is ordering such an engine from us." The German environmental organization NABU expressed its willingness to cooperate: "We regularly commission studies to explore this matter. We will gladly bring the results to the negotiating table. But the shipping industry should not give up now just because the search for a solution is difficult," said environmental policy specialist at NABU, Sönke Diesener. The shipping industry, generally rather slow to act, needs to pick up speed, he stressed. There is no shortage of good ideas, as gmec has shown.

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