By Jarrad DeWitz, U.S. Coast Guard, World Maritime University
The ‘lifeblood’ of ships is changing. It may not be apparent yet, but the transition is already underway and within the next fifteen years more than half of the oceangoing fleet will likely be operating on fuels other than oil. This drastic change stems, predominantly, from global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that Arctic sea-ice extent has decreased approximately 3% per decade over the past 30 years; sea ice has thinned, and there are now more melt days per summer. Taking this into consideration, there is a compounding reduction in multi-year ice.
Of the many contributing factors to the climate change, reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) are immediate and tangible actions that have been key agenda items in major global forums.
In fact, the United Nations (UN) has taken the initiative to introduce a protocol for limiting the effects of global warming to less than 2°C by year 2100 and this new instrument is expected to be adopted during the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21). Although this target is ambitious, it is nonetheless achievable.
The World Maritime University (WMU), under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and following the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, has begun preparing for this new future.
Although WMU has more than 30 years of rooted history in global education of maritime affairs through its postgraduate programs, it has recognized the dynamic shift beyond traditional shipping practices, and is now moving toward a more environmentally conscious approach.
For example, IMO amended the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Convention Annex VI in 2013 to add regulations on energy efficiency for ships making mandatory the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).
In order to best equip the next generation of maritime professionals, WMU recently received approval from the University’s Board of Governors to expand its offerings to include the Maritime Energy Management specialization and the Ocean Sustainability, Governance & Management specialization.
The new Maritime Energy Management specialization concentrates on efficiencies, as laid out by IMO, by introducing alternative fuel usage, cutting-edge design concepts and operational practices to instil a philosophy of minimizing environmental footprint in pursuit of oceans sustainability.
One particular alternative fuel is clean burning Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the new ‘lifeblood’, which is set to displace oil as the major marine fuel choice. In terms of clean fuel, LNG does not emit sulphur oxides or particulate matter into the atmosphere and nitrogen oxides are substantially reduced when compared to traditional oil fuels; all contributors to greenhouse gas.
Furthermore, LNG is now globally produced and available, marine engine performance has been designed to achieve industry demands, seaports are rapidly developing infrastructure, and shipyards are receiving substantial increases in new-build orders.
According to DNV GL’s July 2015 figures, there are 65 ships operating, or are capable of operating, on LNG fuel. Although this is a fraction of the total world vessel population, this number is expected to grow substantially by 2020 due the impending regulatory mandates.
Global sulphur emissions reduction to 0.5% are expected to be in place and in order to achieve a 20% EEDI reduction, LNG must be part of forward-looking plans.
DNV GL’s new ship order figures identify a confirmed count of 79, which is a key indication that the generation of oil fuels is subsiding. DNV’s ‘Shipping 2020’ report highlighted a total world fleet increase by approximately 50% during this decade, suggesting that an average of roughly 2,000 new vessels will be contracted each year.
During such time, assuming the above mandates are in force, DNV maintains the opinion that up to 50% of new ship deliveries could be fitted with gas-fuelled engines by 2020. The current price of oil has certainly reduced this early prediction, but nevertheless it sheds light on the imminent transition.
Anecdotally, Chinese river bulk operator, LNG Power Shipping, recently placed an order for 200 LNG fuel ships to be delivered in 2016.
In early 2015, IMO’s Marine Safety Committee 95 adopted the Code of Safety for Ships Using Gases or Other Low-Flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), providing standardized design and structural requirements for LNG fuelled vessels.
Complimentary, IMO’s Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping Subcommittee proposed draft competency requirements for those mariners who will sail on vessels subject to the IGF Code.
WMU’s Maritime Energy Research Group (MarEner), seeking to continuously monitor the pulse of the maritime industry’s energy needs, recently partnered a project on LNG fuels on board ships; an On The Mos Way-Network project co-funded by the European Union.
WMU was responsible for developing and delivering a 35 hour theoretical and vocational training course with a practical approach to safe handling of LNG fuels during bunkering and shipboard operations. This course was broadcast from WMU via distance learning and at no cost to approximately 50 participants from across the globe.
Real-time lectures and discussions with industry experts were of great benefit to the participants which included several mariners currently working on board ships, maritime professionals recently introduced to LNG fuels, as well as several postgraduate students studying in the areas of fuel efficiencies.
Sea shipping is taking dramatic steps to address the climate change concerns, but will need to continue with aggressive initiatives in order to mitigate the adverse effects to the environment; engine performance improvements and fuel usage innovations are critical.
WMU strives to be at the forefront of providing relevant and prudent education to the world’s future maritime leaders and will continue to support this transition as the maritime industry accelerates into the new age of shipping, collaborating with its tremendous global networks and utilizing industry experts to achieve the ultimate goal; sustainable oceans.
World Maritime University
Founded in 1983 by the IMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, the WMU is a global center of excellence for maritime and ocean post-graduate education and research. For more information visitwww.wmu.se