HullWiper | Sustainable technological innovations driving the change…

Sustainable technological innovations driving the change in shipping

08 Oct 2021

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The shipping industry is continuously placed under the microscope for its significant contribution to the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Around at least 80% of commercial trade is moved by sea, a percentage that is expected to increase as globalisation continues to grow, and this is set to rise by an estimated 3.4% annually between now and 2024.

Rising sea levels, temperatures and disruption in oceanic habitats have prompted international organisations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take action by implementing an ambitious strategy to have the shipping industry reduce its carbon emissions by the year 2030.

The shipping sector is currently responsible for over 3% of global CO2 emissions, a number that could inevitably increase if not for the significant sustainable strides that are currently being taken on by the industry. However lofty the IMO's goal may seem, it is a crucial step towards decarbonising the shipping industry and creating a long-term sustainable solution that is profitable for shipowners and beneficial for the health of our oceans. It is a challenge that the maritime industry has embraced, showcasing incredible ingenuity that has developed a range of green initiatives that are shaking things up.

  • The industry’s biggest challenge is cost

While innovation continues to be a trend that will propel the shipping industry into a greener future, the development and eventual implementation of these technologies require continuous investment. Going green can have a considerable effect on a fleet’s bottom line, as the production of sustainable materials cost more to manufacture. Hydrogen is a prime example as the alternative fuel costs a pretty penny to manufacture and store, despite its promise of providing a cleaner fuel source.

Yet, shipowners still have a responsibility to "walk the talk" and to ensure that their carbon emissions remain low. Here are a few sustainable technological innovations that will change the shipping industry:

The world’s first zero-emissions vessel:

The Yara Birkeland is the world's first zero-emissions, autonomous cargo ship. Set to launch at the end of 2021, the vessel will set sail on its maiden voyage between two Norwegian towns, with a reduced crew to test the autonomous system.

Largely supported by the IMOs goal to decarbonise the shipping industry, the Yara Birkeland is the first fully electric container vessel that has specifically been designed to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. The cargo ship has the capacity to carry 103 containers and has a top speed of 13 knots, all while utilising a 7MWh battery. The most impressive aspect of Yara Birkeland is its autonomous feature, which is set to be the standard of shipping in the future as the industry looks to go crewless and provide a cost-effective way of operating.

Although this vessel is not able to handle a trip across international waters, it is a step in the right direction when providing the shipping industry with an innovative and sustainable option for the future.

Singapore's next-generation Tuas port project

With the shipping community onboard to creating and working toward sustainable operations, ports across the world have started developing new port facilities that walk the line between environmental responsibility and economic development, with the city-state of Singapore leading the charge. In an effort to stay abreast of the latest technologies and sustainability practices, Singapore has poured significant capital into creating the development and construction of Singapore's next-generation Tuas port project.

Widely considered a mega-port, this massive undertaking is set to be fully operational by 2040 and will be considered the world’s largest fully automated terminal. Along with state-of-the-art technology, which will showcase the industry’s move towards a more digitised environment, the port will be a complete greenfield site, providing the opportunity for the project to be built in a climate-conscious and sustainable way.

Hydrogen as a fuel source

The maritime sector has been hard at work when it comes to developing a cleaner fuel source as the industry looks to ditch bunker fuel. Hydrogen has been one of the top choices when it comes to an alternative fuel source, but utilising hydrogen has proven to be a challenge. However, manufacturing giant Wartsila may have something up their sleeves as the Finland-based company has recently announced the development of engines that utilise hydrogen-based fuels, including ammonia.

Green hydrogen and green ammonia are the number one options when looking to provide the industry with zero-carbon marine fuel. The project is still in the testing phase, but the results look promising as Wartsila aims to have the hydrogen-fuelled engine running on a 70% ammonia fuel blend by the end of 2021 and running purely on ammonia by 2023.

  • Safe underwater hull cleaning solutions

Traditional methods of hull cleaning using divers with brushes or karts has, until recently, been the norm in the industry. Not to mention the risk to human life (divers) and restrictions of where and when hull cleaning can take place, the environmental risks associated with this method of cleaning is evident in that removed fouling is released back into the sea. This has a devastating effect on the local oceanic ecosystem as they compete for resources that directly impact the natural diversity of the environment.

With stringent regulations being imposed by international shipping organisations and ports around the world to change the regulations for in-water hull cleaning standards i.e. eliminate the risk of spreading harmful marine biofouling into foreign waters, a safer alternative was introduced by HullWiper’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

The innovative ROV collects marine fouling from vessel hulls which is then deposited into an onboard filter for safe disposal onshore with a locally approved environmental waste company. HullWiper provides an effective and sustainable method of removing these invasive species without the risk of polluting local port waters.

While HullWiper’s ROV is effective when it comes to providing a greener solution for shipowners, it is also a long-term cost-effective investment. This innovative technology provides effective hull cleaning that ensures the vessel is performing optimally with no additional drag, reducing and keeping fuel costs to a minimum. Cleaning with HullWiper a less aggressive option also means 25 - 50% more savings to coating costs at dry docking over traditional cleaning.

Starting early with investing in eco-friendly solutions and technologies will help to mitigate shipowners and operators’ overall costs whilst providing a more sustainable future.