Bunker, Emissions Reduction Technology Could Radically Impact Future Shipping Patterns

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Thursday August 4, 2016

Exactly how shipping chooses to tackle its emissions reduction challenge will likely have a radical impact on the size of vessels, and the model under which they operate in the future, Dr Michael Traut, Research Associate at the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester, has told Ship & Bunker.

Traut is currently investigating the various ways that shipping can meet its implied emissions reduction obligations in the context of the COP21 global climate agreement, and his research looks to examine the possible options - from battery, wind and solar power (WASP), through to alternative bunker fuels, and nuclear power.

"If you look at the options, you can see that some solutions are only really viable for certain sizes of vessel, because the bigger the vessel, the more energy you need to power it," he said.

"If you take a low power example of say wind, solar, and battery power, the relative savings will be much larger if you apply this technology to a smaller vessel.

"Conversely, if you look at a high power example of say, nuclear, that is naturally going to lend itself towards bigger ships."

The technologies that shipping ultimately decides to back could therefore influence future vessel size, which would then have a knock-on effect for future shipping patterns.

"If you did go for nuclear, you would get a much more pronounced hub and spoke model, with really big, fast nuclear vessels going between the hubs. Other technologies, such as WASP and battery power, could then be used on smaller feeder vessels where the energy savings impact is much greater," he said.

Today, it is hard to believe that many in the industry would take seriously the idea that traditional bunkers could be replaced en masse by such technologies, at least in the near to medium term, as it is just too big of a change.

But while Traut has previously told Ship & Bunker that there are currently no answers as to how shipping will make the needed reduction in its emissions, one thing that is already clear to him is that a change of significant magnitude will be required.

"We need to do something radical, and soon," he said.