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Saving the Planet

Saving the Planet

From consumers to consultants and CEOs to conservationists, sustainability has become the ultimate buzzword. Over the past couple of years, we have seen a renewed commitment from governments, organisations, and industries to put the planet first.

This trend towards sustainability is driven by the increased threat of climate change, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As supply chains and the global economy itself got disrupted on an unprecedented scale, it has become evident that we cannot afford to put off addressing the issues of overreliance on fossil fuels and mass pollution for a later date.

For The Planet, Profits, and People

Under the assumption that resources are finite, the United Nations defines sustainable development as one where our present needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations. This concept encompasses conservation and dynamic equilibrium in human and natural systems.

The most frequently addressed aspect of sustainability is environmental protection, focusing on ;the reduction of carbon footprints; and food and water wastage; as well as protecting wildlife. This ties closely with the next pillar of sustainability: Economic Development. It is generally accepted that companies should no longer attempt to generate profit at the expense of other elements of sustainability under any circumstance. However, to ensure the continuity of the business, revenue must be generated. Measures taken to protect the environment, or at the very least, mitigate harmful impacts on the environment, must also be cost-effective. The challenge with this form of sustainability is achieving equilibrium.

How The Maritime Industry is Faring

It is estimated that over 90 per cent of the world’s trade is navigated across oceans and waterways. This comes as no surprise, given that maritime transportation is an incredibly cost-effective way of moving goods in bulk. However, this figure itself gives us a glimpse into the potential damage the industry may be doing.
Per the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), shipping fleets across the world are responsible for almost 3 per cent of global emissions. Currently, this is the equivalent of annual emissions from developed countries such as Germany. Left unchecked, this figure is expected to reach a whopping 17 per cent by 2050.

Looking at it from another perspective, the industry consumes 400 million tonnes of fuel per year, which accounts for 950 million tonnes of C02 in the same period. Reducing 5-10 per cent of fuel consumption in itself would reduce the emission of 40-100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.

While these figures alone are concerning, they don’t take some other aspects of the maritime industry that leave a mark on the environment into account.
One of the most frequent forms of pollution associated with ships is oil spills and their devastating aftereffects. Polycyclic hydrocarbons in crude oil are toxic to marine life and cause developmental problems, susceptibility to disease, and abnormal reproductive cycles. In addition to this, multiple components in crude oil are extremely difficult to clean up. This leaves behind sediment that may last for years in the marine environment.

In 1989, the oil supertanker, Exxon Valdez, struck Prince Willian Sound’s Bligh Reef, inadvertently dumping a massive amount of oil in the ocean. Despite efforts across all fronts, over 400,000 marine animals were killed due to this incident.

Taking a look at a more recent incident, in 2021, a bulk carrier ran aground a coral reef off the south-eastern coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The heavy oil leakage from this incident is expected to take a heavy toll on the region’s biodiversity, over the entirety of this decade.

Incidents like this have increased scrutiny, and stakeholders across the industry are turning towards technological and operational measures to ensure sustainable operations.

The Way Forward


Rotor Sails
The usage of rotor sails, which are auxiliary propulsion systems, reduces the fuel consumption of a ship. This in turn reduces emissions (and fuel cost by default) to as much as 20 per cent. At present, this is a solution viable to 25,000 vessels across the world, from passenger ships to cargo carriers.

See Also

Photo: Cruise Industry News

Shore to Ship Power
Another solution to reduce emissions is electrification solutions. Ships can arrive at ports and turn off onboard fuel generators and connect to the port’s electrical grid. This transfers shoreside power supply which, in turn, reduces the carbon footprint, as well as eliminates polluting emissions and noise.

Vessel Energy Fuel Efficiency
This is perhaps one of the most impactful solutions for reducing emissions using machine learning. Here, data collected during navigation from embedded sensors are analysed to reduce the EEOI (Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator) and CO2 emissions. This technology works by managing performance efficiency, detecting anomalies, and routing strategically to minimise fuel consumption.

Another instance where machine learning and artificial intelligence are used in sustainable practices across the industry is reeferpulse. This is a predictive maintenance solution that detects issues in refrigerated containers (reefers) and reduces food and energy wastage during shipping. Not only can this system predict energy use with a ±1 per cent error rate, but for any reefers, it can adapt to systems quickly and learn to operate without human supervision.

Photo: Maritime Insight

Smart Containers
Certain shipping containers are powered by Artificial intelligence which provides end-to-end visibility and traceability. This helps logistical stakeholders anticipate and mitigate risk across the supply chain, not only reducing cost but also enabling cargo monitoring for sensitive goods.

Author: Ziva

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