Volume 6, Issue 4
Published: May 7, 2012
Shipping: a missed opportunity?

Ocean-going ships consume a significant part of global transportation fuels. Although commercial shipping is, by far, the most energy efficient mode of transporting goods around the world, the global shipping industry gobbles up more than 16% of global transport fuel supply, which is more than the aviation sector (280 versus 207 million tonnes respectively in 2000).

 

Today the sector is responsible for over 3.3% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions, and these emissions are predicted to grow by a factor of two to three by 2050 if no serious abatement measures are taken, according to the International Maritime Organisation, the UN organisation that regulates the industry. Although the issue of growing GHG emissions has been discussed for over a decade at both the IMO and under the UNFCCC, both organisations have so far failed to agree on binding GHG emission reduction targets.

 

Whatever regulatory measures are taken, from a technical perspective there are three main options for reducing GHG emissions in the sector. The first option is to reduce shipping activity, which is unlikely to occur in an increasing globalised world economy. The second is to increase the energy efficiency of shipping. This is partly being addressed through the recently introduced energy efficiency design index (EEDI) for new ships, and through operational measures such as slowing speed and the optimisation of routes. The last and most promising option is to decrease the carbon intensity of shipping propulsion, particularly through the introduction of biofuels.

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