Energy Efficient Shipping And Impact On Shipbuilding Evolution

By Luciano Manzon, Chairman, SEA RDI
Spring 2014

Today shipping faces strategic challenges: escalating energy costs and impact on climate change. The common denominator of these challenges is the industry's reliance on fossil fuels. The fuel cost represents the most significant cost item when operating a vessel (46% of the operating cost - standard Panamax containership).

Shipping will increasingly be obliged to be included in regional and worldwide regulatory regimes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore the investments in energy efficiency, resulting in increased cost efficient products, and the transition to new fuels to reduce the sector's environmental footprint both represent a challenge and a distinct evolution needed for the waterborne industry.

The compelling case to take action to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing emissions is reflected by the present regulatory framework both globally and regionally through strategic maritime policy goals.

The IMO has been setting a global emission reduction agenda:

  • Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) that mandates vessels to have a 30% CO2 reduction by 2025.
  • Annex VI of MARPOL including a cap on the Sulphur content in fuel oil as a measure to reduce SOx.
  • NOx emission limits are being set for diesel engines.
  • Stringent requirements regarding the emission of particulate matter is also expected.
  • Overall increase in ship efficiency will be realised through the creation of the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).

The European Commission's WHITE PAPER ON TRANSPORT has given high priority to tackle the environmental impact of transport. A challenging target of CO2 emissions from maritime transport of 40% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels has been set. The global fleet is expected to double and therefore the real reduction in CO2 emissions of each sailing vessel should be at least 70% on average, compared to 2005.

The maritime industry needs to utilise R&D in order to re-think the energy production and absorption chain of vessels, finding different cost-efficient solutions to be implemented from today until 2050. A strategic overview of the different "combinations of key technologies" (and their possible evolution) to be focussed on, in that period, is essential to meet the challenge.

The European maritime industry is doing just that through its network represented by the European Waterborne Technology Platform.

Room for improvement in the overall vessel efficiency appears to exist, considering if 100 is the fuel energy going into the main engines, around 50 is transmitted to the shaft and going from the shaft to the propeller, about 34 is the "working" propulsion power covering the hull friction, the wave generation and other resistances to the motion. There are many losses in the power chain!

The research of better efficiency measures will concern all areas of energy loss. Breakthrough solutions are needed in hull, propulsion and auxiliary domains whilst not forgetting the important areas of overall ship operation and energy management.

Two important aspects should need to be taken into consideration:

  • Efficiency measures differ according to the type and the operational profile of the vessel;
  • Measures for increasing efficiency are generally not cumulative.

This highlights the important role of a ship designer who has to choose and integrates different possible technological solutions for the best overall performance of a ship.

Promising areas of the research that can assist to meet the strategic goals could address:

  • Hull: Developments of Computer Fluo-Dynamics tools for eco-efficient design in order to innovate and optimise hull forms for multi-mission operational profiles; new molecules for hull treatment reducing resistance and combining anti-fouling properties; viscous resistance reduction identifying new laminar hulls concepts; wave-ship motion optimisation; advanced hull designs for inland / shallow water navigation; and next generation propulsors.
  • Materials: Breakthroughs are expected regarding the use of lightweight / higher strength composite materials (e.g. metal foamed sandwich) and the relevant joining techniques.
  • Engine: Combustion optimisation of marine engines (injection timing, compression ratio, fuel spray geometry, etc.); alternative fuels (LNG, methanol, ethanol, DME, biodiesel and biogas); renewable energy propulsion (wind, sea and solar power); fuel cells running on hydrogen as auxiliary propulsion power; and in a longer term vision a diverse fuel mix adoption, with LNG, biogas, batteries and hydrogen produced from renewable sources.

Overall ship operation and energy management: innovative solutions are expected for the monitoring, control and automation suitable to optimise the energy use on board permitting cost efficient operations in different vessel conditions.

All these research issues are the maritime technology industry and is reflected in the strategy of the Waterborne TP. The sector has engaged to finalise a large research program - "Vessels for the Future". It is proposed that a Private Public Partnership with the EC can tackle the challenges related to energy efficient shipping and safety, thereby, encouraging a change in perception of shipping and fundamentally altering the state of operation, when compared with today.

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