Tag Archives: shipping

The world’s first emission-free container ship just finished its first run

Yara, a fertilizer production company from Norway, has debuted the world’s first electric and self-propelled container ship, named the Yara Birkeland. Starting next year, the ship will replace lorry haulage between Yara’s plant in Porsgrunn in southern Norway and its export port in Brevik, located 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) away by road. 

Image credit: Yara.

Like taking 40,000 trucks off the road

The container shipping industry plays a key role in global supply chains, but until now, it has taken few steps toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Maritime shipping isn’t included in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which seeks to limit global temperatures to 2ºC – despite the fact that the industry is responsible for 2% to 3% of global emissions (comparable to the emissions of a smaller country). 

Back in 2017, Yara decided to work on the development of a zero-emissions vessel with maritime technology company Kongsberg. The project was almost abandoned with the COVID-19 pandemic which delayed the delivery of the vessel by over a year. The ship will cut emissions and reduce transport by up to 40,000 truckloads per year, Yara estimates.

The ship will travel along the coast between the ports of Herøya, Brevik, and Larvik in southern Norway – sailing about 12 nautical miles per shipment. After the inauguration, the ship will start its commercial operations in 2022. Also, until 2024, the ship will be under a testing period, making sure that the technology that makes it autonomous fully works. 

“Norway is a big ocean and maritime nation, and other nations look to Norway for green solutions at sea. Yara Birkeland is the result of the strong knowledge and experience we have in the Norwegian maritime cluster and industry,” Geir Håøy, CEO of the Kongsberg Group, said in a statement. “We contribute to the green transition.”

The ship will navigate, recharge its batteries and load and offload its cargo without human involvement. It comes with a set of sensors to detect objects in the water and decide what action to take to avoid hitting anything. It has the capacity of shipping 120 20-foot containers of fertilizer at a time, with batteries equivalent to 100 Tesla cars. 

“On the way to a low-emission society, transport emissions must come down to almost zero. To achieve that, we need projects that can transform the market – projects that have the potential to pave the way for others and increase the pace of”, Nils Kristian Nakstad, CEO of Enova, which funded the ship construction, said in a statement. 

Looking ahead

The outcome of this project and a few others in the coming years will determine whether the electrification of river and sea transport can expand. Alongside Yara, logistics company Maersk is piloting a 600-kW marine battery system onboard the Maersk Cape Town ship, while ABB and Siemens have also been working on a few electric solutions.

Meanwhile, Yara is already thinking of the next step – the development of green ammonia. Produced using renewable energy, it would enable the production of emissions-free fertilizer and is also a promising zero-emission fuel for the maritime sector. Ammonia production currently accounts for 2% of fossil energy consumption.

“Renewable energy was our starting point in 1905. Now, ammonia can bring us back to our roots. Our large shipping network and existing infrastructure means that ammonia has the potential to become the leading fuel for long-distance shipping globally,” Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, CEO of Yara Clean Ammonia, said in a press statement. 

All in all, there are some reasons for optimism — but there’s a long way to go. There are over 5,000 operating container ships in the world, and getting all (or enough) of them to decarbonize will take a lot of time and effort.

World’s largest container shipping company pledges carbon neutrality by 2050

Despite being one of the most carbon-efficient means of global transport, marine shipping still accounts for 2/3 percent of the global greenhouse emissions. The industry’s big players want to change that.

Credit: Robert Lender (Flickr)

The sector wasn’t included in the Paris Agreement but has set its own goal to cut emissions by 50% by 2050. Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, took the ambition a step further and vowed to be carbon neutral by 2050, sending goods with zero carbon emissions. This will mean developing new technology and compete with companies that aren’t bearing that burden.

The shipping firm now has 750 vessels in operation, some of which are hundreds of meters long. Maersk has already cut emissions substantially, spending US$1 billion so far in efficiency improvements — aiming at the intermediate goal of cutting emissions by 60% by 2030.

“The only possible way to achieve the so-much-needed decarbonisation in our industry is by fully transforming to new carbon neutral fuels and supply chains,” says Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer at Maersk. “The next 5-10 years are going to be crucial. We will invest significant resources for innovation and fleet technology.”

It may seem like a long time before 2050 hits, but Maersk needs to plan ahead very carefully. Ships are manufactured to last 20 to 30 years, which means ships in service in 2050 will become operational in a few years. New technology will also mean developing a new supply chain to fuel the ships.

Maersk’s plan is based on three pillars: customers, cost reduction and regulations. The company is already working on a carbon-neutral option by using biofuels, selling the option to clients such as H&M. The Swedish clothing firm wants to be carbon neutral by 2040 so reducing its emissions through shipping is one way to go.

As part of its climate-friendly plan, Maersk is also focusing on reducing the amount of money spent on alternatives to fossil fuels. Ships now rely on fuel oil or liquefied natural gas and zero-carbon options like biofuels don’t work yet at the scale needed for container ships

“We want to accelerate the development of solutions of getting there and not just sitting on the fence and waiting for somebody [to do] something,” Ole Graa Jakobsen, Maersk’s head of fleet technology, said

Cleaner technologies that are needed to lower emissions haven’t been invented yet, which makes Maersk’s goals difficult to meet. The company is expecting for technology development to accelerate and to meet its target on a “business-viable” way.

At the same time, Maersk expects there will soon be stricter regulations on shipping emissions such as carbon pricing. If this actually happens, the company will be in a better position than its competitors which have less ambitious environmental targets in place.

But given the current state of affairs regarding climate action regulation, there’s no guarantee that rules on shipping will get tougher. Companies signed a climate agreement under the International Maritime Organization but there’s no system to enforce the commitments, so it’s all in the air so far.

Maersk has so far reduced relative CO2 emissions by 46%, which is about nine percent more than the industry average. There’s still a long way to go until carbon neutrality and achieving it will not only depend on the company but also on factors outside its control. In the meantime, we can only hope that Maersk’s plan will move ahead as planned.


The challenges of waste management in the shipping and transportation industry


Credit: Pixabay.

Today, individuals and businesses can send and receive shipments from almost anywhere. With enough time and resources, you can find the right channels to get things where you need them to go.

The shipping and transportation sector is a thriving industry that helps power the global economy. It also generates a large amount of waste, and dealing with that waste is a major concern for shipping companies, government agencies and environmental organizations.

Waste Management in Transport and Shipping

The logistics industry creates waste through transport materials, warehouse activities, vehicle maintenance, packaging and office waste. Some of this waste is hazardous. Waste produced while a ship is in transit must be stored on board until the next time the ship comes to port.

Shipping waste management today is highly regulated by governments around the world. In the United States, for example, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) are the main laws regulating this sector.

For many years, state laws for managing shipping waste closely resembled federal laws. However, some of these federal laws, such as CERCLA, are older. Since the laws went into effect, states have changed their regulations, leading to a mismatch in expectations. Differences in laws among various countries can also create challenges. Shipping companies have to pay close attention to make sure they follow all existing regulations.

Fraud and Mismanagement

Sometimes though, companies break these rules — both incidentally and intentionally.

For instance, a company that imports computer cable assemblies recently settled violated claims to the tune of $1.2 million that it underpaid customs fees on goods imported from China and broke federal customs laws. This is certainly not the only instance like this.

Some of this management stems from the oil and gas industry, a sector that’s closely linked to the transportation industry. The state of Massachusetts, for instance, recently recovered $7.9 million through an investigation into claims that Shell Oil misused a fund meant for the cleanup of contaminated gas stations.

Oil spills, and incidents involving other hazardous materials, are another common issue within the shipping industry. According to U.S. law, the organization responsible for an oil spill must pay for its cleanup, although the Coast Guard works on the spill first and is repaid by the company later. The cost of oil spills is nearly immeasurable in terms of environmental damage, and climbs easily into the tens of millions of dollars in cleanup charges and legal fees. Purposeful dumping of hazardous materials is another common issue regulators continue to try to crack down on.

Environmental Impact

Spilled oil is poisonous to marine life. It can smother small fish and other creatures and coat the feathers and fur of birds and sea mammals such as otters, inhibiting their ability to maintain their body temperature. Spilled or dumped hazardous materials can also destroy marine habitats and persist for long periods of time in the water.

Shipping things long distances also requires a large amount of fuel, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere. Emissions are an especially big issue when it comes to ocean transport, as shipping fuels contain much higher amounts of sulfur than the fuel used in cars. One environmental expert estimated the world’s 16 largest ships emitted more sulfur than all the cars in the world combined.

The European Union estimates maritime shipping accounts for 2.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that emissions will increase by as much as 250 percent by 2050. When factoring in ground and air shipping, that number soars even higher.

Revising Waste Management Norms

As environmental concerns become even more central, governments around the world are attempting to double down on reducing emissions and waste from shipping. U.S. states are finding shipping waste between states is not cost-effective, and are instead focusing their efforts on reducing the amount of waste they create.

The EU has called for a global approach to curbing shipping-related emissions led by the International Maritime Organization. To meet the goal laid out in the Paris climate accord, many nations are looking to shipping as a way to reduce emissions.

In addition to a push from government and environmental concerns, some shipping companies are also seeking to reduce waste as a cost-saving measure. They’re reusing more materials to avoid purchasing new ones, and cutting waste-management costs by reducing the amount of waste they produce.

The shipping and transportation industry is an important part of our global economy, but it also has a significant effect on the environment and presents other challenges as well. Now, governments, shipping companies and individuals must work to balance the need to transport goods with waste management needs and environmental protection.