Willing to move

Shipping’s reputation as a conservative industry is well deserved, earned by generations of simply sticking to what works.

But technology manager Marius Gjerset of ZERO, the Zero Emissions Resource Organisation, detects a growing willingness to adopt new, green technologies – if not by choice, then by force.

Regulations are driving adaptation of environmental protection technologies like ballast water treatment and exhaust scrubbers, and the 4th industrial revolution is playing a part in the greening of shipping.

“Big data can help enforce regulations,” Gjerset says. “It gives us new knowledge, and that gives us leverage we did not have before. A larger data resource also informs the debate, and brings greater precision to the design of regulations.”

Satellite tracking of ships is one example of an environmental game-changer in shipping: “Using AIS data and advanced analysis together, almost anything can be monitored – fuelling, discharge, spills – and that leads to increased accountability, whether voluntary or mandatory.”

With nowhere to hide, the motivation to comply increases. Regulation at a more detailed, and more nuanced level also becomes more feasible. Tailor made solutions may be seen as fairer, and this in turn may help reduce resistance to implementation, Gjerset argues.

Between the carrot and stick, he believes that the carrot can be effective, but the stick is unavoidable. “Ultimately, markets respond to pressure. Many available technologies need to be regulated into use.” The secret, Marius says, is not just to make demands, but to provide rewards as well.

By land and by sea
Ports are a key element in the overall picture of green shipping, Gjerset points out. The electrification of ports will not only clean up onshore operations, but help ships to play their part in the cleaner future of the logistics chain: “Charging technologies are advancing rapidly, and shore power is getting a boost from regulations.”

He cites an example from just outside the Oslo Fjord: Color Line is currently building the world’s largest plug-in hybrid ferry, designed to serve the route between Sandefjord in Norway and Strömstad in Sweden. The ship will switch to battery power upon entering the narrow Sandefjord, thereby reducing emissions to the local environment.

Big data can help enforce regulations.

In addition to facilitating greener port calls, many ports are aiming for zero emission operations. But Gjerset notes that requirements must be implemented on a regional scale in order to avoid skewed competition: “If environmental regulations make one port less economically attractive, ships will call at cheaper ports nearby, and green investments will be punished, rather than rewarded.”

With ship and shore regulations working together with technological developments, Gjerset believes that the goal of zero emission ports can be realised in the not-too-distant future. “The IMO moves slowly in its regulation of ships, but ports can move faster. Regulations can be differentiated to suit local needs as well.”

Whereas environmentally friendly operations are often seen as incompatible with profitability, environment and economy have now begun to mesh in the regulatory realm, he says. “The Norwegian NOx fund is a good example, where ships trading in Norwegian waters pay into a fund that is used to finance emissions-reducing measures. Initially there was resistance to this form of tax, but now we see that shipowners are willing to pay into the fund, partly because they can benefit when they invest in green technology on board, allowing them to comply with regulations.”

One size doesn’t fit all
“Maritime covers so many niches. With everything from ferries to fishing and cruise to containers, there can be no single solution,” Marius maintains.

“Standardisation can be a good thing, but it can also be a hindrance. It can slow progress and divert interests. We must avoid forcing everyone into the same solution,” he says, citing charging systems for electric cars as an example.

“Charging systems needed time to develop, and newer technology has provided better standards than if the industry had rushed to the early solutions. The road to standardisation must be market-driven and dynamic, and that requires a pragmatic approach,” Gjerset believes. “We don’t want to slam the door or commit to the wrong standard.”

When it comes to the relation between regulations and technology, Gjerset envisions the ideal partnership: “There are examples of one or the other leading the way, but it works best when they work together. Early phase R&D needs public support. As technology matures, commercial markets become the main driver, then regulations can help keep markets in line.”

He cites the example of ferry tenders in Norway, all of which must now address zero emission requirements. Advances in technology have made such demands reasonable, and the demands themselves serve to stimulate new investments in technology. “We still have many old ships and dirty ports. New technologies can stimulate more investment to resolve these issues, and regulations can drive implementation.”

He emphasises that regulations must support, not hinder, development. “Gradual implementation of regulatory policy is critical in the early stages of emerging technologies. They must be allowed to achieve critical mass before regulations are applied.”

Reasons to believe
One example stands out in Marius Gjerset’s mind to give hope for the future: “Developments in battery technology are coming at an exponential rate. When the Ampere ferry was launched, it marked Norway’s entry into the marine battery arena. Now, just three years later, little Norway is a world leader in zero emissions marine transport. Political, industrial, and commercial interests working together have given us a new reality in just a few years time.”

He points out that the rapid development of solar power and battery technology in such a wide range of applications took many by surprise. “Now fuel cell technology is looking like a future fast mover, and hydrogen is becoming more feasible as prices come down. I think there is every reason to expect that advances in other technologies can follow batteries on the fast track, and the maritime community has shown that it will move to green solutions as they become practical.” Even if it does take that last little regulatory nudge.

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