IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

5.3.4 Shipping

In the past few years, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has started research and discussions on the mitigation of GHG emissions by the shipping industry. The potential of technical measures to reduce CO2 emissions was estimated at 5–30% in new ships and 4–20% in old ships. These reductions could be achieved by applying current energy-saving technologies vis-à-vis hydrodynamics (hull and propeller) and machinery on new and existing ships (Marintek, 2000).

The vast majority of marine propulsion and auxiliary plants onboard ocean-going ships are diesel engines. In terms of the maximum installed engine output of all civilian ships above 100 gross tonnes (GT), 96% of this energy is produced by diesel power. These engines typically have service lives of 30 years or more. It will therefore be a long time before technical measures can be implemented in the fleet on any significant scale. This implies that operational emission abatement measures on existing ships, such as speed reduction, load optimization, maintenance, fleet planning, etc., should play an important role if policy is to be effective before 2020.

Marintek (2000) estimates the short-term potential of operational measures at 1–40%. These CO2 reductions could in particular be achieved by fleet optimization and routing and speed reduction. A general quantification of the potential is uncertain, because ship utilization varies across different segments of shipping and the operational aspects of shipping are not well defined.

The long-term reduction potential, assuming implementation of technical or operational measures, was estimated for the major fuel consuming segments[35] of the world fleet as specific case studies. The result of this analysis was that the estimated CO2 emission reduction potential of the world fleet would be 17.6% in 2010 and 28.2% in 2020. Even though this potential is significant, it was noted that this would not be sufficient to compensate for the effects of projected fleet growth (Marintek, 2000). Speed reduction was found to offer the greatest potential for reduction, followed by implementation of new and improved technology. Speed reduction is probably only economically feasible if policy incentives, such as CO2 trading or emissions charges are introduced.

A significant shift from a primarily diesel-only fleet to a fleet that uses alternative fuels and energy sources cannot be expected until 2020, as most of the promising alternative techniques are not yet tested to an extent that they can compete with diesel engines (Eyring et al., 2005b). Furthermore, the availability of alternative fuels is currently limited and time is needed to establish the infrastructure for alternative fuels. For these reasons, in the short term switching to alternative fuels provides a limited potential in general, but a significant potential for segments where a switch from diesel to natural gas is possible (Skjølsvik, 2005). Switching from diesel to natural gas has a 20% CO2 reduction potential and is being pursued as a measure in Norway for inland ferries and offshore supply vessels operating on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The main obstacle to the increased utilization of natural gas is the access to LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and the technology’s level of costs compared to traditional ship solutions based on traditional fuel (Skjølsvik, 2005). A co-benefit of a switch from diesel to natural gas is that it also reduces emissions of SOx and NOx that contribute to local air pollution in the vicinity of ports.

For the long-term (2050), the economical CO2 reduction potential might be large. One potential option is a combination of solar panels and sails. The use of large sails for super tankers is currently being tested in Germany and looks promising and may even be a cost-effective measure in the short term in case oil prices continue to soar. The use of large sails does not require fleet turnover but can be added to existing vessels (retrofit). The introduction of hydrogen-propelled ships and the use of fuel cell power at least for the auxiliary engines seem to be a possibility as well. For larger vessels capable and reliable fuel-cell-based ship propulsion systems are still a long way into the future, but might be possible in 2050 (Eyring et al., 2005b). Altmann et al. (2004) concluded that fuel cells offer the potential for significant environmental improvements both in air quality and climate protection. Local pollutant emissions and GHG emissions can be eliminated almost entirely over the full life cycle using renewable primary energies. The direct use of natural gas in high temperature fuel cells employed in large ships and the use of natural gas derived hydrogen in fuel cells installed in small ships allows for a GHG emission reduction of 20–40%.

  1. ^  In fact four segments covering 80% of the fuel consumption were assessed: tank, bulk, container and general cargo ships.