Decarbonizing maritime shipping | MIT Technology Review

Attempts to decarbonize both environmental and economic risks due to the important position of maritime shipping in the global economy. About 80% of trade is by volume and more than 70% by value is shipped by water to ports around the world. And marine freight is projected to triple by 2050 as more countries strive to reach carbon neutrality.

As the industry seeks to meet rising cargo volumes, companies will face increasing pressure from regulators, partners and consumers. Amazon (the world’s largest retailer outside of China) and Ikea (the world’s largest furniture retailer) have promised to use only marine operators powered by zero-carbon fuels by 2040. The call pressure from policy makers to decarbonize maritime shipping is increasing. To align maritime shipping with the goals of the Paris Agreement, Aspen urges governments to commit to ambitious fuel targets, create new regulations and implement market-based measures to promote fuel and technology innovation.

Shipping companies are responding to calls with ambitious efforts to decarbonize and meet their expected service levels. For example, Mersk – the world’s largest container shipping company – has set a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 60% by 2030 and neutralizing carbon by 2050. The Getting to Zero Coalition, an alliance of 150 companies, is pushing for growth. And the deployment of zero-emission ships by 2030. Every tool at its disposal should be used to quickly decarbonize the shipping. Without action, their emissions would increase by an estimated 250%.

Shipping companies are experimenting with hydrogen, methanol and ammonia as alternative fuels. The rise in conventional fuel prices could be a necessary pressure on operators to move towards alternatives. The trend towards larger vessels will also allow ships to reduce cargo emissions per tonne. These solutions provide improvements in carbon emissions but are not sufficient to meet international targets.

Auxiliary power batteries, airfoil sails for free wind energy, or alternative building materials for containers and ships also offer additional opportunities to reduce carbon emissions. In addition to these physical changes, data and digital technologies play an essential role in efforts to decarbonize maritime shipping.

Sensors Can get the huge amount of data needed for marine shipping to use to reduce emissions. Digital technology will analyze, understand and calibrate ship parts and operations to ensure maximum efficiency. The sensor captures wind speed, water currents and engine efficiency. Then, intelligent systems powered by machine learning move ships to the most energy efficient sailing mode.

Inferential analysis Capable of combining operational, geospatial and social data to chart and optimize routes – minimizing disruptions and increasing efficiency. Connected systems share complex operational and feedback data across and across ships to identify patterns and develop shared intelligence.

Digital twins Enable shipping operators to understand the past through digital models, optimize the present and emulate future scenarios. Modeling and forecasting scenarios will be important for maritime operators to continue to improve their carbon footprint. These are digital expressions of data interacting with the physical world, giving operators a deeper understanding of spatial relationships in context. Digital twins allow operators to simulate disruptions (weather, delays at ports, route changes) to reduce emissions decisions.

These are just a few of the digital tools that can enable marine shipping to decarbonize. However, each example highlights the need for more data visibility across the industry. Maritime shipping is seen as a follower in the adoption of digital technologies. However, two-thirds of the industry is using digital technology to assist in the operation and safety of ships. The industry now needs to shift these tools and data skills to the problem of carbon emissions.

Operational data and digital solutions are also important for tracking and reporting the numerous decarbonization metrics sought by stakeholders, both inside and outside the company. This reporting highlights the successes or failures of critical-path programs, ensures continued support and investment and will be increasingly sought after by regulatory bodies. Infosys’ EcoWatch solution supports organizations in this endeavor by creating a digital foundation to measure and improve decarbonization initiatives.

Decarbonizing maritime shipping is not just an environmental responsibility but a decent business opportunity and necessity for survival. Most global companies have set net-zero targets, and it is imperative for shipping companies to provide logistics that match those goals. Maritime providers that provide such services can gain a competitive edge, earn more revenue through differentiated pricing and increase their market share.

This content was created by Infosys. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.

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