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Speed Optimisation, not Slow Steaming is the Answer to Lowering Shipping Emissions Says GreenSteam

During the past few weeks, debate regarding the best solution to lower shipping emissions has intensified, with one side claiming that slow steaming is a viable option, while the other argues against this. GreenSteam’s Chief Operations Officer, Simon Whitford, ventures into the discussion, arguing, in an exclusive interview with Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com), that optimisation of speed, rather than slow steaming offers a better solution towards lowering shipping emissions. Mr. Whitford is a vessel performance and optimisation specialist, and has worked in the maritime and shipping industry for over 20 years.

Slow steaming as a solution for lowering shipping emissions appears to be gaining significant traction. Do you share the view that it is an important step towards shipping’s decarbonization?

Optimisation of speed offers a better decarbonization strategy. If all the world’s cargo vessels suddenly slowed down and simply took longer to arrive – we would need more ships, and we would have to ask the world’s factories to increase production to fill our new slow supply chain. This might just result in an increase in emissions overall. GreenSteam’s Speed Optimisation algorithm employs a machine learning platform and runs hundreds of thousands of simulations along a particular route which consider how the vessel responds to the latest forecasts of weather, sea state etc. to recommend a speed profile across the voyage that delivers the lowest fuel consumption specific to the ship, whilst respecting the vessel’s original ETA. So optimising speed to still meet the required delivery date, rather than simply reducing speed will deliver a greater reduction in GHG emissions.

Image: GreenSteam

Do you feel that a carbon levy on shipping would be the answer? 

No, shipping carries 90% of the world’s goods and contributes only 2.5% of GHG emissions. Modern 2 stroke engines used in the largest vessels are very efficient pieces of technology, but also represent a huge investment for shipowners. To build on the very strong environmental position of shipping, governments could offer funds to assist innovators who are developing new fuel saving technologies, and for shipping companies who pioneer these. I am thinking of the kind of incentives that Norway used to build the market for electric cars.

What about the best ways to reach a zero-emission industry?

There seem to be a lot of unanswered questions out there and owners are a bit hesitant to commit funds, only to find that the market is going another direction a few years down the line. I think the industry needs to work on many different fronts. Retrofitting vessels with cheap effective IoT sensors / dataloggers – feeding a machine learning platform typically allows every ship operator to cut emissions up to 5% across a broad swathe of the industry – so a modest reduction applicable very widely. As each efficiently designed new build vessel using low carbon fuels takes the place of older tonnage the industry takes another big step forward towards zero-emissions. Using machine learning to link empty vessels with cargo shippers is no easy task but could make a dent in the emissions arising from around 50% of the voyages which are in ballast.

How effective can the current fleet become through proper maintenance and perhaps some retrofitting? 

With the right funding and incentives, I think there are no limits to the ideas and innovations that can be applied to the world fleet. This will allow continuous reduction in emissions. Vessel optimising solutions often employ IoT sensors harvesting large quantities of ship / environmental data which feeds the machine learning model. This is a no capital, “cents on the dollar” opex investment, to cut emissions around 5% across the current world fleet.

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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