Car makers don’t simply want to scale back the emissions their vehicles produce but in addition the air pollution attributable to their provide chains. Whereas the maritime delivery trade has began to scrub up its act, the sheer quantity of vehicles and automotive parts that have to be loaded onto ocean vessels and transported throughout the globe means it’s nonetheless a unclean enterprise.

Low-sulphur fuels have gone some strategy to cut back the harm cargo ships trigger to the atmosphere however due to their measurement, weight and the distances they want to have the ability to journey with out refuelling, options for precise zero-emissions are a great distance off. Nonetheless, the trade is travelling in the precise course.

Methods to drastically cut back CO2 and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, or change to totally different fuels, would have been laughed at solely 15 years in the past, based on Professor Stephen Turnock, head of civil, maritime and environmental engineering at Southampton College. His colleague, Professor Dominic Hudson, professor of ship security and effectivity, provides that the Worldwide Maritime Organisation (IMO) solely began having severe discussions about emissions round 2007, introducing a cap on the sulphur content material in gasoline from 2010 and tightening it in 2020.

The issue with numerous maritime in the mean time is… that they need one thing they will burn in an inner combustion engine. That’s what they know, that is what they perceive, and that [requires] the smallest shift in expertise – Professor Dominic Hudson, Southampton College

The Paris Settlement on local weather change pushed the IMO to difficulty an announcement with more durable tips for ocean delivery. Hudson explains: “That IMO assertion is absolutely what drives numerous the larger delivery corporations or house owners, or those that wouldn’t transfer. There are at all times those that transfer voluntarily however numerous them received’t, so that you want an announcement from the regulator.”

In the present day, delivery corporations are tripping over one another to announce initiatives to scale back their emissions. In February this yr Wallenius Wilhemsen offered the Orcelle Wind, an idea for wind-powered ocean transport. The corporate is assured it may turn out to be a actuality by 2025. Many others are switching vessels to biofuels and liquefied pure gasoline (LNG), whereas some together with UECC and Grimaldi, put money into hybrid energy. 

Bridging fuels and batteries

Most will concede, nonetheless, that biofuels, LNG, compressed pure gasoline (CNG), and hybrid energy will not be, in the end, the answer, as they nonetheless contain burning numerous gasoline and pumping emissions into the air. Michael Maass, vice-president of sustainability options sea at Kuehne + Nagel, sees LNG as a bridging gasoline to one thing higher as a result of it nonetheless leaves 85% of the CO2 emissions on the market and produces methane.

Daniel Gent, power and sustainability supervisor at ro-ro delivery line UECC, additionally sees LNG as a bridging gasoline, including that it’s going to enable for carbon impartial transport in 20-30 years’ time, together with different fuels together with biofuels. Maass echoes that thought, including that e-fuels, additionally known as artificial fuels, corresponding to hydrogen ammonia or ethanol, can have a task to play given the sluggish manner battery expertise for the delivery trade is evolving.

Gent explains that cumbersome batteries will not be the reply simply but: “We’re nonetheless just a little bit away from having electrical propulsion on our ships. One of many points that we have now is that our kind of ships – automobile carriers – actually need to max out the house that they’ve. We’re probably not weight restricted; we run out of house earlier than we run out of weight.”

Whereas the automotive trade has roughly settled on electrification and battery energy to resolve its emissions issues, the delivery trade that carries these vehicles and elements continues to be ready or in search of a workable resolution. “I believe the issue in the mean time is the interaction between the long-term and the short-term targets,” explains Hudson. 

Incentives to speculate

Hudson says that attaining a 25% emissions discount by 2030 on new-build ships is eminently achievable with at present’s expertise. Nonetheless, the IMO’s 2050 goal to scale back greenhouse gasoline emissions by 70% in comparison with 2008 would require rather more funding. That should begin now however shipowners are placing this off as there may be at present an absence of incentive to speculate closely in sustainable expertise.

Hudson says it’s the massive carriers that might want to take the lead on innovation and decarbonisation, because the R&D doesn’t make financial sense for smaller delivery corporations. It is usually as much as the carmakers to exert stress on them to take action.

Now we have had some paradoxical conditions the place producers [have] requested us to hurry a sure cargo of product to a vacation spot [despite]… the elevated carbon affect… however the subsequent day we’re requested the query, what we’re doing to enhance sustainability within the provide chain – Craig Jasienski, (previously) Wallenius Wilhelmsen

Hydrogen gasoline cells are trying just like the eventual resolution, however as they require huge structural modifications, each on the ships and on the ports, in addition to a transfer to large-scale manufacturing of inexperienced hydrogen, the change shouldn’t be coming tomorrow. Hudson says: “I believe the issue with numerous maritime in the mean time is… that they need one thing they will burn in an inner combustion engine. That’s what they know, that’s what they perceive, and that [requires] the smallest shift in expertise. So biofuels look very engaging, burning ammonia seems to be fairly engaging, probably burning hydrogen seems to be comparatively engaging.”

Burning biofuels

Certainly, ro-ro service UECC has been including dual-fuel vessels to its fleet since 2016. These ships can run on typical oil or LNG and obtain a 20% reduce in CO2 in comparison with typical equivalents. Later this yr, the corporate will take supply of the primary of three new dual-fuel hybrid vessels, which may use electrical energy to carry out the high-power manoeuvring wanted in port, decreasing emissions and minimising native air pollution. Whereas totally electrical ships of this measurement will not be even on the horizon, electrical energy is already appropriate for such peak shaving, additionally known as load levelling.

For the final yr, UECC has additionally run a trial to energy its 20-year-old Autosky vessel on biofuels, which it says has yielded an emissions discount of 60%. The fuels are sourced from GoodFuels, which blends waste oils together with cooking oil.

Though Kuehne + Nagel doesn’t function vessels itself, biofuels and pure gasoline are key to its carbon discount programme. Its SeaExplorer platform lets prospects select essentially the most environmentally accountable service that matches up with their calls for. It additionally operates a scheme it calls Mass Stability, which secures a sure quantity of biofuel for use for delivery. Container vessels should still use heavy oil however the required quantity is utilized in one other vessel on a route the place biofuel could already be viable. Finally, each the biofuel and the standard oil are nonetheless burned, so this can’t be the actual resolution both.

Kuehne Nagel Hapag Lloyd container ship

For biofuel to be really viable, even simply as a bridging expertise, it must have a sustainable origin. UECC’s Gent says: “To begin with, we have now a sustainability criterion… [.] It at all times has to return from a waste or residue stream. That implies that you already know it has no greater objective aside from to be a waste or a gasoline. On high of that, we additionally need to guarantee that the feedstock for it has no competitors with meals manufacturing.”

He provides that the biofuel from supplier GoodFuels is licensed by ISCC, a sustainability certification system for the availability chain, and the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), which focuses on biofuels specifically. 

“It’s about the way you’re getting your biofuel,” Hudson concurs. “Should you’re arising with some intelligent new system to make use of algae or plankton from the ocean, that truly could be an excellent long-term resolution, however in the event you’re in the event you’re speaking about land-based biofuels, then the land makes use of are too vital for different issues.”

Even with biofuels from waste or sustainable crops, Gent concedes that there are limits to how far it’s potential to scale up biofuel utilization, as it could be inconceivable to supply sufficient sustainable biofuel for the hundreds of vessels crusing the world’s seas. Even earlier than that, demand would worth biofuels out of the market. Hudson provides that biofuels are near the one viable resolution for aerospace in the mean time, an trade that’s more likely to pay extra for it than the ocean transport sector.

Push and pull

Sustainability shouldn’t be low-cost as a normal rule, which complicates issues despite the fanfare that surrounds it. Throughout the ALSC North America convention held in February this yr, Susanne Lehmann, director of manufacturing for the North American area at Volkswagen de Mexico mentioned the corporate had been shifting transport away from street and air to sea and rail the place potential. VW has additionally been working with Siem Automotive Carriers to make use of extra LNG vessels.

Nonetheless, she additionally mentioned: “I’ve to persuade all people to even have the precise pricing, in cooperation with these measures, so we can not simply say ‘okay, let’s save the world and spend all the cash’. There must be a stability between the pricing that we even have and the pricing that we are going to have making use of these measures.”

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Orcelle Wind hi-res

Like Volkswagen, Renault has signed as much as The Paris Settlement and goals to make its operations carbon impartial by 2050. The French carmaker is seeking to alter the power combine for its transporters, switching modes to rail and sea the place potential, and lowering the whole distance travelled for each cubic metre of cargo by way of circulate optimisation and truck and container filling price enhancements.

Florence Ughetto, sustainable logistics professional at Groupe Renault, explains how the corporate is working with its ocean transport suppliers: “Now we have initiated longer-term contracts with a few of our suppliers. It will allow the involved delivery line to put money into sustainability initiatives – investments to decarbonise their vessels. Earlier than every tender a sustainable analysis of every delivery line is completed. This sustainable criterion has the identical weight within the last citation as different standards corresponding to high quality, value, lead time and operations effectivity.”

Nonetheless, based on the delivery corporations, that’s not at all times the way it goes. Craig Jasienski, who not too long ago stepped down as CEO of Wallenius Wilhelmsen, informed Automotive Logistics that there’s robust curiosity within the automobile sector to enhance provide chain sustainability. Nonetheless, he feels that Wallenius Wilhelmsen is pushing it greater than it’s being requested by the automobile producers. He says that sustainability is a ‘fourth dimension’ that’s nonetheless usually lacking from the availability chain, with value, high quality and velocity remaining the principle drivers.

“Now we have had some paradoxical conditions the place we had some producers who requested us to hurry a sure cargo of product to a vacation spot. We’ve transparently and knowingly defined to them what the elevated carbon affect can be by way of that call, however but we’ve nonetheless been requested to execute that,” he explains. “So, we did that, however the subsequent day we’re requested the query what we’re doing to enhance sustainability within the provide chain.”

At UECC, the expertise has been related and Gent says there’s a disconnection between speaking about sustainability and awarding enterprise primarily based on that criterion. The difficulty, he says, is that it’s onerous for a lot of corporations to internally put a worth on carbon, and awarding enterprise to extra sustainable suppliers can find yourself trying like a wasteful goodwill gesture. 

Regulatory assist

UECC would help regulatory incentives, corresponding to an emissions buying and selling scheme just like the one used within the energy technology trade, or for the CO2 fleet pooling between OEMs within the EU. Gent does say that authorities would wish to take care to not set any carbon worth too low, as that might enable polluters to simply pay it and keep it up. 

An identical warning comes from Jasienski, who can be in favour of one thing like a carbon tax, however he says that earlier blanket measures, corresponding to lowering the velocity throughout the board, generally finally ends up penalising operators which have already invested in cleaner expertise.

The factor that might pressure change would clearly be some type of carbon tax. That will focus minds and supply extra of an incentive to maneuver to cleaner fuels as a result of it’ll begin to turn out to be more economical, however that’s actually, actually troublesome to do – Professor Stephen Turnock, Southampton College

Ughetto agrees: “All regulation round velocity limitation and round low emissions in port ought to assist. However we do imagine corporations that resolve to put money into cleaner vessels ought to obtain some fiscal incitation as for street transport. It is a good strategy to speed up decarbonation.”

Whereas such a scheme can be doable inside the EU, it could be much more sophisticated on a world scale. “The factor that might pressure change would clearly be some type of carbon tax,” says Turnock. “That will focus minds and supply extra of an incentive to maneuver to cleaner fuels as a result of it’ll begin to turn out to be more economical, however that’s actually, actually troublesome to do.”

Hudson provides that any international effort wants the IMO behind it: “Even stating an ambition has made a giant noise inside the maritime trade.”

The opposite regulatory difficulty that wants addressing is classification. In the meanwhile, numerous the promising fuels, corresponding to hydrogen and ammonia, are labeled as hazardous and subsequently banned. Whereas exemptions can be found, the IMO, nationwide flag states and classification societies might want to take motion so as to not gradual progress.

Not simply biofuel and prayers

Given the big variety of routes, and the excessive value of some options, it seems to be like there shall be numerous totally different applied sciences competing in the interim, and a few of them shall be for area of interest markets. Wallenius Wilhelmsen freely admits that its Orcelle Wind automobile service shall be a premium providing that may initially be trialled on sure routes the place circumstances are beneficial. Renault can be supporting wind energy, having been an early investor since 2018 within the Neoline mission, which is creating a wind-powered transatlantic vessel (learn extra in our interview with Mark Sutcliffe, former senior vice-president of business technique and provide chain administration on the RNM Alliance).

Hybrid energy, whereas a vital instrument for the automotive trade to scale back emissions from vehicles, is at present solely appropriate for operations in port and for peak shaving – permitting the combustion engine to run at a relentless load by ‘serving to out’ when numerous energy is required. Renault is utilizing a hybrid vessel from Grimaldi to move vehicles between Spain and Italy, which it says that reduces CO2 emissions by 39% in comparison with the earlier vessel.

Renault Grimaldi Hybrid ship

There are nonetheless some extra operational and element modifications that may yield advantages, together with route optimisation, gradual steaming, draft and trim optimisation, propellor design enhancements, air lubrication (the place bubbles are created below the hull to scale back drag) and wind help methods. 

Air lubrication has gained in reputation prior to now few years, and Hudson expects that wind help may observe. Nonetheless, he reckons most massive delivery corporations have completed a lot of the operational optimisation they will, whereas gradual steaming is restricted in how far it may be pushed with out turning into counterproductive.

The LNG route

As indicated earlier, LNG is competing with biofuels as a method to energy ships within the close to future (if not the long-term future). Siem has been changing a number of the vessels in its fleet with LNG carriers and is utilizing them for the Volkswagen Group. It claims the gasoline reduces CO2 emissions by as much as 25%, NOx emissions by as much as 30%, particulate matter by as much as 60%, and sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions by as much as 100%. UECC has a number of carriers that may run on LNG as effectively.

Hudson says that LNG can certainly be huge assist in assembly 2030 local weather management obligations however it’s not the long-term resolution. Nonetheless, Turnock raises one other good thing about LNG: “During the last two years I’ve gone from probably not pondering I do know what the reply is to beginning to suppose that the hydrogen gasoline cell will finally be the answer. Nonetheless, to get there, that’s nonetheless fairly a difficult journey. LNG can be an excellent route in the direction of hydrogen as a result of a number of the infrastructure you want for LNG is probably going for use for hydrogen, and so, there are some classes that may be discovered and a few developments that may happen within the meantime.”


One of the best ways to take emissions out of the transport of vehicles and parts internationally continues to be unclear. Hudson and Turnock recommend carmakers may do greater than merely push the delivery corporations to enhance. On the one hand, the automotive trade is excellent at producing advanced methods cheaply and their improvements may feed into delivery.

Alternatively, there may be the chance to additional hyperlink up the availability chain. Hudson means that ports may turn out to be hubs to advertise decarbonisation, each on land and at sea.

“There’s an attention-grabbing crossover potential round ports, and whether or not you refill your vans in ports or whether or not you refill your ships from vans in ports. I believe there’s a crossover in huge container ports specifically, the place a excessive share of containers are arriving by truck and occurring a ship.”

Regardless of the resolution, the time to behave is now, as there have been loads of bulletins and pilot research. Hudson sums up: “I believe it’s actually vital to see over the subsequent couple of years who truly builds one thing and places [it] within the water.”