CHEK is a European Union Horizon 2020 funded project that proposes to reach zero emission shipping by disrupting the way ships are designed and operated today. The project will develop and demonstrate two bespoke vessel designs – a wind energy optimised bulk carrier and a hydrogen powered cruise ship – equipped with an interdisciplinary combination of innovative technologies working in symbiosis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 99%, reducing energy use by 50%.
The challenge of decarbonising long-distance shipping
Over two thirds of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships sailing to or from European ports in 2018 came from long-distance ships like bulk carriers, container ships, tankers and passenger vessels. If nothing changes, the IMO expects global shipping emissions to increase by 50-250% between 2008 and 20501. Whilst the contribution of long-distance shipping to the EU and global economy is undisputed, it is clear that the sector needs to address a number of challenges.
Policymakers have increasingly directed their attention to waterborne transport in recent years. Firstly, there was the historic goal set by IMO's Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships at MEPC 72, in 2018. This set the goal of reducing the global fleet emissions by 50% by 2050 as compared to 2008. Secondly, there was the EU Green Deal initiative adopted in December 2019, aiming at turning Europe into the fi rst climate-neutral continent by 2050. Tools for implementing decarbonisation of international shipping in the EU are approaching in the form of inclusion of shipping in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) supported by the EU MRV (EU Regulation 2015/757), and the proposed Fuel EU Maritime directive which introduces the life-cycle aspect into shipping. Shipping is expected to deliver a serious contribution to the goal of turning the EU into a climate-neutral continent by 2050.
No existing or emerging "silver bullet" technology is single-handedly able to decarbonise long-distance shipping. If future shipping is to connect the world reliably, cost-effectively and quickly – and do so in line with the IMO's 2050 goals – it must use a combination of future technologies working in symbiosis.
CHEK: decarbonising long-distance shipping
Funded under the EU Horizon 2020 programme, CHEK is coordinated by the University of Vaasa and includes the trend-setting marine equipment manufacturer Wärtsilä, two of the largest ship owners/ charterers worldwide (MSC Cruises, Cargill International), four clean technology providers (Climeon, Hasytec, Silverstream Technologies, BAR Technologies), the world's first marine classification society (Lloyd's Register), leading ship designers Deltamarin and the IMO-founded World Maritime University. The project runs from June 2021 to May 2024 with a 10M euros grant over these 3 years.
CHEK is proposing to decarbonise long-distance shipping by disrupting the traditional way ships are designed and operated today. Rather than "stacking" novel technologies onto existing vessel designs, the consortium proposes to develop a unique Future-Proof Vessel (FPV) design platform. The platform will allow the CHEK consortium to accomplish the main project objective of designing, developing and demonstrating (at full scale) two first-of-a-kind vessel concepts that:
- i) are based on real operational profiles rather than design parameters tailored to pass sea trials only;
- ii) fully integrate cutting edge technologies within the vessel design, thus maximising the symbiosis between technologies and ultimately helping to achieve radical emission reductions not seen up to date;
- iii) offer their benefits at acceptable cost to ship owners, operators and society;
- iv) are future-proof, i.e. designed with resilience against most probable future challenges such as tightening regulations, changing fuel prices, but also capable of adopting to emerging opportunities.
The FPV Platform will also serve as a basis for replicating the CHEK approach towards other vessel types such as tankers, container ships, general cargo ships and ferries as these jointly cover over 93% of the global shipping tonnage and are responsible for 85% of global GHG emissions from shipping.
Expected impacts and results
The expected impacts of CHEK are directly linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) as well as the IMO 2050 goals and the EU Green Deal:
- Reduce climate change and health related cost to society.
The deployment of CHEK technologies on an average Kamsarmax bulker or a Meraviglia class cruise vessel is expected to reduce the lifetime GHG emissions of each vessel by 99%. Combined with the health benefit costs to society of the NOₓ, SOₓ and PM emission reductions, this translates into almost €2.1 billion of benefit to society for the two vessels combined, calculated by attaching a price tag to each ton of emissions CHEK technologies help to avoid, that would otherwise cause additional health and climate change damages. Assuming only 1% of all 3453 bulk carriers that called at EU ports in 2019 would be CHEK vessels, this would translate into EUR 18B of benefi ts to society in terms of health and climate damages avoided.
- Radically reduce the nitrogen oxides (NOₓ), sulphur oxides (SOₓ) and particulate matt er (PM)from shipping.
CHEK technologies are anticipated to reduce NOₓ, SOₓ, PM emissions by over 90% as compared to the baseline Kamsarmax bulker and Meraviglia cruise vessel.
- Pave the way for next generation global environmental standards underpinned bytechnological development.
The commercialisation of the CHEK solutions as environmentally ambitious, but also affordable technologies, is expected to pave the way for further regulatory amendments, as part of internal EU regulations, and later on the IMO-level.
- Lower need for expensive sustainable fuel in the energy transition towards IMO's 2050 goals.
Whilst sustainable fuels are considered an important enabler of the energy transition of the long-distance shipping sector, they also constitute a major cost factor. Yet, their role will be smaller within CHEK-powered vessels due to the radical efficiency gains offered by CHEK. Consequently, lower fuel reliance will constitute a unique selling point for cost-aware ship owners and operators
 IMO GHG Study