Pound for pound and mile for mile, shipping is already the most environmentally efficient way to move cargo, and standards to improve efficiency in new ships went into effect earlier this year. Those standards are subject to regular review and could be tightened “if the technology supports that,” a spokeswoman for the United Nations agency said.

Improving a ship’s efficiency means it burns less fuel. And for most ships, fuel represents at least half the operating cost. “So there is an enormous economic incentive for shipping companies to try to minimize their operating costs,” said Christopher L. Koch, who recently retired as the president of the World Shipping Council, which represents so-called liner shipping companies that own and operate container ships and other vessels. “And the more you save on fuel, the less CO2 you’re producing.”

Many liner shippers have adopted efficiency improvements, which can include relatively straightforward steps like polishing the propeller or coating the hull with paint that inhibits the growth of algae and other organisms, to more extensive and expensive work to improve engine performance, reshape the bow or add fins or ducts to the propeller.

Some improvements are even more elaborate. Silverstream Technologies, a London-based company, is one of several that have developed systems that produce a carpet of tiny air bubbles along the bottom of a ship. “The hull touches mostly air, so there’s much less friction,” said Noah Silberschmidt, the company’s chief executive.

Silverstream’s technology, which includes pumps and other equipment and modifications to the hull, has been tested by Shell; in sea trials on a 575-foot-long tanker, it improved efficiency by about 5 percent. A Norwegian Cruise Line ship under construction in Germany will have the technology when it is launched in 2017.

But the simplest way to improve a ship’s efficiency is by slowing down. Studies have shown that such “slow steaming” — reducing speed by at least several nautical miles per hour — can significantly reduce fuel consumption, and thus CO2 emissions. In some cases, emissions have been reduced by more than half.

Slow steaming was widely adopted by liner shippers during the global economic slowdown that began in 2008, and industry groups point to it as being largely responsible for reducing the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of cargo.

Read more original article NYT

Date: 2017-01-20

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