Smart Green Shipping flag ship

Smart Green Shipping on the Deep Blue Sea: UK Tech to Achieve Zero Emissions by 2050

London International Shipping Week started with a splash.  

The UK government has announced its target for zero global shipping emissions by 2050. The strategy? Green tech innovation will lead the way. Plus, a host of other initiatives aimed at ensuring the UK is the flagship of the sustainable maritime industry.

Focused on innovative sustainable solutions, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also announced the winners of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition. The competition was launched as part of the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution last November. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, “As a maritime nation with a rich history, and host of COP26 this year, we are proud to be at the forefront of the greener era for maritime, charting an international course for the future of clean shipping.” He continued, “I’m incredibly excited by the changes happening in this sector, with the speed of progress highlighted by the prospect of zero-emission commercial vessels in UK waters in the next few years and green Channel crossings within a decade.” 

The Green Shipping News

Significantly, the UK government is the first in the world to include emissions from international shipping in its domestic carbon budget. As the greenest London International Shipping Week to date, the UK is focused on working with the maritime industry to build a sustainable future. Maritime UK chair Sarah Kenny reiterated the country’s strategy would focus on tech innovation to bring about urgent change. “The UK is the natural home for maritime business and will play a pivotal role in helping this most global of sectors to decarbonise,” she said. “There are already fantastic technologies being developed and deployed here, and the industry is determined that these accelerate in close partnership with government.” Throughout the week, ministers and industry leaders will discuss how to decarbonise, and determine the Department of Transport’s Maritime 2050 strategy.

Flagship Fuels

According to the International Maritime Organisation – the United Nation’s shipping agency – maritime transport accounts for 940 million tonnes of C02 per year. This is 3% of total global emissions and – as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – warming is happening quicker than previously estimated. As approximately 90% of the world’s trade is moved by sea, and this is set to grow, finding greener shipping methods is imperative. 

Switching to sustainable fuels is one option. This summer, Danish shipping giant Maersk spent $1.4 billion on ships that can run on ‘carbon neutral’ methanol. In July, Norway-based technology company Azane Fuel Solutions received public funding for the world’s first green ammonia bunkering terminal. Shipowners and industry analysts say they expect ammonia to play a pivotal role in decarbonizing cargo ships. However, no vessels of any size today are equipped to use the fuel. Even if they were, the supply of renewable ammonia produced using carbon-neutral methods is negligible.

Sea Smart Tech

This is where smart tech comes in. Companies such as UK start-up Smart Green Shipping (SGS) are using satellite data to develop technology that will help the shipping industry reduce its CO2 emissions. It has developed a wind-assist power solution based on America’s Cup wing sails. This involves a series of ‘smart’ aerofoils paired with a sophisticated analysis system. The digital software can accurately calculate the available wind to any ship, across any trade route at different speeds. In this way, fuel consumption is reduced by at least 20% whether through retrofitting an existing ship, or as part of a new-build design. Plus, the wing sails are programmed to make the most of the wind angle and speed. As they retract automatically when approaching a bridge, or when wind speeds present danger, there is no need for additional crew.

Diane Gilpin, SGS Founder, explains, “Wind is free, clean, and abundantly available to ships that are equipped to harness it. Our modern wind-assist solutions are highly advanced and optimised to enable the shipping industry to start driving down emissions immediately.”

Smart Green Shipping is part of the Greenbackers 26 for COP26 initiative
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