The Route to the Low Carbon Ship

There’s much energy generated on the subject of carbon in the shipping industry - should we measure it? Who should? How? What would happen to the data?

It’s like looking at the Universe through a peashooter.

Certainly there’s a need to measure carbon emissions to enable the implementation of the internationally agreed Copenhagen Accord however there’s an entrepreneurial spirit at large focussing beyond the carbon horizon on clear commercial goals of operational cost certainty and energy security.

Apple agrees to buy solar energy on long term agreements to secure its energy costs for the next quarter of a decade at least, not because it’s directly responding to a need to measure its carbon, or because it wants to be green and cuddly. The energy cost certainty allows the business to develop long term strategic advantage.

Given ships are long term capital investments fixing operational budgets by deploying renewable energy enables a significant cost element to be fixed over the vessels’ lifetimes. Harnessing ‘free’ energy from nature, the sun or the wind, where we’re pretty sure the price of these energy sources isn’t going to change anytime soon, means that after the initial extra capital investment renewable energy users are free from both fuel price volatility and worries about impending environmental legislation whilst enjoying a significant level of energy security.

Of course it takes a big leap of faith to pick the most cost-effective, reliable renewable energy solution and because capital investors and charterers are often separate entities there’s no one party with the incentive to drive change.

The answer lies in collaboration.

Through alliances of leading industry organisations knowledge and capabilities are shared and jointly developed, de-risking technologies for first movers whilst creating a reassuring network of expertise to undertake new builds, operations and ongoing maintenance of new solutions. In turn this spawns new highly profitable business models. In short, the route to a low carbon ship, a low carbon economy, is not to focus on carbon but on long term commercial advantage.