Going Green, Maritime Shipping Style

Vroon Shipping Vessel


New IMO regulations promise to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Giant tanker ships are not typically considered environmentally friendly vessels, and it’s no wonder why. These behemoths chug across the world’s oceans carrying tons of fuel, food, and other products, burning bunker fuel to propel themselves along. (If you’re not familiar with bunker fuel, just imagine a tank the size of a small neighborhood holding the “sludge” that all the super-premium gasoline brands claim to remove from your car’s engine in their commercials.) That’s all far more black than “green” but the International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently released new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions that may change the situation. This could have a positive effect on the environment, since experts estimate that shipping vessels are currently responsible for 3.3% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

You won’t find any new hybrid tankers in your local port, but you may see a little less black smoke billowing from existing ones in the near future. The new IMO regulations, which were summed up nicely in a recent New York Times editorial, require up to a 30% increase in fuel efficiency over the next few years.  This is dependent on each ship’s age, among other factors, and several developing nations have been granted an extension, so ships built there won’t need to comply with the regulations until 2019.

Here at KVH, we expect that our mini-VSAT Broadband SATCOM solution will be a useful tool for electronic reporting and monitoring of emissions, more efficient route planning, and managing both engine operations and fuel use, but we’re also impressed by some other creative measures that are already in the works. For example, the Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is coating the bottoms of its vessels with a new “low-friction” paint that apparently improves fuel efficiency by up to 5%!

In the grand scheme of things, these new regulations are not going to vastly reduce the shipping industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, but they just might help to slow them. Maritime shipping is still one of the world’s most affordable methods of transporting goods, and with small changes over time, it should stay that way while decreasing its impact on the environment.

About Jill Connors 80 Articles
In orbit as Media Relations Manager for KVH Industries, Inc.