Autonomous shipping has clear environmental benefits

Courtesy of Kongsberg / Massterly

Posted on Oct 28, 2021 4:49 PM by

A sea

As the need for action on climate change grows more urgent, the shipping industry could make good use of autonomous technology to support its decarbonization efforts, advises One Sea, the open alliance that paves the way for shipping autonomous.

The recent United Nations report in which scientists issued a stern warning on climate change comes a year after the IMO’s fourth 2020 greenhouse gas study forecast a 90-130% increase in emissions GHG emissions from maritime transport by 2050. ”, this prediction contrasts sharply with the IMO’s objective of halving maritime emissions by the same year.

In this context, the industry must act quickly and decisively to mitigate its environmental impact – and autonomous technology can make a significant contribution to these efforts, says One Sea, the consortium aiming to establish the first autonomous maritime ecosystem here. 2025.

Eero Lehtovaara, President of One Sea, Master Mariner and Head of Regulatory and Public Affairs at ABB Marine & Ports, suggests that a significant environmental dividend from autonomous technology will result from improved safety.

“Maritime incidents such as groundings and collisions, which can have a serious impact on the environment, are often attributed to insufficient situational awareness,” he explains. “By continuously monitoring a vessel’s position in relation to hazards, including other vessels, and ensuring that it maintains a safe distance from those threats, autonomous technologies can help prevent threats. accidents and thus protect the environment. The way forward is to ensure that we combine the best of human capabilities with the technologies that support them, like a ‘cobot’ working alongside the crew. “

In addition to keeping ships away from physical danger, autonomous technology can prevent ships from performing prohibited and potentially dangerous actions, Lehtovaara continues. “Solutions deploying geofencing can ensure that a vessel takes appropriate measures to minimize its ecological impact, such as complying with discharge and emission restrictions in certain locations and completely avoiding particularly sensitive areas. “

However, autonomous and automated navigation also benefits the environment by increasing the efficiency of travel, he says, in turn contributing to decarbonization. “Technology improves productivity and energy efficiency by continually reacting to small changes with small actions rather than intermittently responding to larger changes with larger actions. This translates into reduced emissions for the same volume of freight transported, he adds.

Lehtovaara’s observations are consistent with the conclusions of Wärtsilä, a member of One Sea. In a recently released white paper, The Future of Smart Driving is Here, the marine technology provider reveals range solutions can deliver fuel savings of 10% or more on longer trips by optimizing routing and the speed of the ships. Meanwhile, on a two-hour trip, a mere 60-second reduction in docking time can reduce fuel consumption by two to three percent per minute, the newspaper reports.

Autonomy solutions can also maximize energy efficiency by enabling just-in-time (JIT) vessel operations, according to Awake.AI, intelligent maritime logistics expert and member of One Sea. “The JIT method allows ships ahead of their schedule to reduce their speed as they approach port and minimize waiting time,” says company co-founder and CEO Karno Tenovuo. “This saves fuel and reduces emissions, which is especially crucial in busy port areas. JIT’s arrival has received additional approval from the Global Industry Alliance to Support Low Carbon Shipping, whose surveys show that a reduction in speed of as little as 10% can lead to a 30% reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide.

As a provider of cargo handling solutions and services, Cargotec, a member of One Sea, is strongly committed to the decarbonization of the maritime industry. Cargotec operates in the MacGregor and Kalmar business segments. MacGregor is a strong supporter of technology-enhanced port operations as a means of maritime decarbonization. The company developed the world’s first autonomous bulk cranes in collaboration with ESL Shipping, installing three of the machines on two Handysize bulk carriers powered by ESL liquefied natural gas. By providing extended service life and reducing vessel turnaround times through optimized load handling, cranes contribute to sustainable port operations.

Most recently, MacGregor worked with Kalmar and Kongsberg Maritime, a member of One Sea, on the world’s first autonomous, zero-emission container ship, the Yara Birkeland. The innovative vessel, which transports fertilizer from the Norwegian town of Porsgrunn to the deepwater ports in the towns of Larvik and Brevik, features automated MacGregor mooring, autonomous Kalmar loading and unloading, and sensor and Kongsberg integration. Together, these systems support efficient ship operations, which dramatically reduce emissions by eliminating up to 40,000 truck trips per year in a densely populated part of Norway.

The company’s over-reliance on road transport is something Kongsberg aims to address through a joint venture with global shipping company Wilhelmsen, known as Massterly. Founded in 2018, Massterly aims to ‘enable a transfer of transport from road to sea’ by providing support for vessel design and approval, control systems, logistics, operations, insurance and funding. Massterly and Kongsberg are currently involved in a project to fit two new fully electric self-contained freighters for Norwegian grocery retailer ASKO. Due to a delivery in early 2022, the ships will replace 1.2 million miles of truck transport to eliminate 5,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

The expected environmental benefits of the Kongsberg and Cargotec projects align with the claims and conclusions of other One Sea members, including ABB, Awake.AI and Wärtsilä. Based on this evidence, autonomous technology could help ensure that by 2050, the shipping industry has avoided IMO’s gloomy emissions predictions – and instead achieved its ambitious reduction target.

A sea is a high-level ecosystem whose main objective is to lead the way towards an operational autonomous maritime ecosystem by 2025.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

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