Energy Efficient Shipping: Things Are Changing

By Gesine Meissner, Member of the European Parliament
Spring 2014

Shipping is a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions accounting for 3% of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The burning of heavy fuel oil also produces important amounts of NOx and SOx emissions.

During this parliamentary term there have been some achievements on European as well as on international level tackling the problem of shipping emissions. First we had to align European legislation to the stricter requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) concerning sulphur emissions of ships. The main change was the introduction of Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) namely the North Sea, the English Channel and the Baltic Sea. The maximum sulphur content of fuels used by ships operating in these areas was limited to 1.5% starting from 2010 and will further be reduced to 0,10 % from 2015.

Ship owners warned that there won't be enough alternatives to heavy fuel oil available to comply with the coming 2015 sulphur limits. Since then in the Parliament we intensively discussed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) as a cleaner fuel for shipping. I very much welcomed in the beginning of last year the Commission's proposal on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure which was accompanied by an LNG action plan. This legislation is crucial to break the current chicken and egg situation. Ship-owners don't invest in LNG-ships because there are only few ports with LNG bunkering facilities. Ports don't invest in LNG infrastructure as there is only little customer demand.

Although negotiations with Council are quite tough I am confident that we will find an agreement which will allow circulation of LNG-fueled ships throughout the TEN-T Core Network within the next decade. We should have a flexible and market-driven approach also taking into account mobile supply solutions by LNG-trucks. Not every port must build its proper infrastructure. We should consider actual market needs and existing bunkering points to build up the LNG network.

Clean shipping regulation on EU-level continued with last year's Commission proposal on Monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from large ships using EU ports which is still in the legislative process. At international level IMO adopted two measures in 2011. The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) sets compulsory energy efficiency standards for new ships. The CO2 reduction level for the first phase is set to 10% and will be tightened every five years to keep pace with technological development. The Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) is a management tool for ship owners to improve energy efficiency during operation of the ship.

I also saw some creative initiatives for energy efficient shipping these last years. Beluga Shipping, one of the shipping companies of my constituency, attracted some attention by operating the world's first commercial container cargo ship co-powered by wind energy. MS Beluga Skysails was partially powered by a 160-square-metre, computer-controlled kite. It was launched in 2007 with a first passage from the northern German port of Bremerhaven to Guanta in Venezuela. While the kite was in use, the ship saved an estimated 10-15% of fuel.

The kite did not become widely accepted and Beluga Shipping went bankrupt a few years later. But we need to think out of the box for innovation in shipping. Ship owners are still suffering from the economic crisis, as amounts of cargo transported around the world remain lower than before 2008. Therefore they are less likely to invest into alternative propulsion systems.

Nevertheless Scandlines, a ferry company operating in the Baltic Sea, is thinking about a Zero-Emission Ship. It has been designed by FutureShip, a subsidiary of the German-Norwegian classification company DNV-GL. The Zero-Emission Ship could be deployed by 2017 on the ferry service linking Puttgarden (Germany) and Rødby (Denmark). This service transports passengers, cars and trains on a 19km long passage over the Fehmarn Belt with departures every 30 minutes.

The propulsion of the Zero-Emission ferry is based on liquid hydrogen. On-board wind turbines can also contribute to propulsion when possible. Solar panels on the roof feed additional electricity into the electrical board system. Excess on-board electricity is stored in batteries for peak demand. Total energy needs are reduced by optimizing hull lines, propeller shape, ship weight and procedures in port. This ship would produce neither CO2 nor NOx and SOx emissions. Maybe too good to be true?

Member of the European Parliament In 2009, Gesine Meissner became a member of the European Parliament. She is currently the coordinator of the ALDE Group on the Committee on Transport and Tourism and a substitute member in the Development Committee as well as in the Committee on Fisheries. Mrs Meissner is also a member of the EU-Mexico and Euro-Latin America Delegations.

She is a member of the council of the ALDE party and the federal executive board of the German Free Democratic party (FDP). In November 2013, she was elected as Vice President of the ALDE Party Gender Equality Network.

Before joining the European Parliament, Gesine Meissner was a member of the regional Parliament of Lower Saxony where she was chairing the Committee on Health and Social Affairs from 2003 to 2009.

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