Shipping goes green – here come the Eco ships

Incipient changes to environmental legislation based on cutting seaborne pollution have led to bigger ships. The move to larger vessels is not a new one –  though the birth of the ‘super-super tanker’ or ultra-large crude carrier, in the late 1970s, was a bit of a flash in the pan. The biggest ship in the world, then or now, the ULCC Seawise Giant, finished up as a moored crude oil storage tanker before being scrapped.

But now the motivation for the new ships, which are container vessels, is not just to carry as much cargo as possible: it is to do so based on economy of scale, energy efficiency and environmental improvements. These are eco ships.

Mandatory measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping were adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2011, coming into force in 2013. There are two regulations: one on energy efficient and less polluting equipment and engines, while the other is an operational measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of a ship in a cost-effective manner.

This has led shipowners to study how they can meet the new requirements while still doing good business. And the outcome has been the evolution of innovative new ship classes, the E ships.

The E ships

At the more modest end of this trend is the 117,000 dwt “handy-cape” Cielo d’Italia, which joined the joined Italy’s d’Amico shipping group in February, the first of two sister eco-ships. The second will be delivered from Sanoyas Shipbuilding Corporation’s shipyard in Mizushima, Japan, in the first quarter of next year.

Cielo d’Italia, the largest ship in the 60-year plus history of the d’Amico company, is equipped with a latest generation fully electronic engine system, featuring automatic control for optimising consumption. This reduces emissions and consumption by 20%, the company says.

The eco-giants, Triple E class

Also in February, Maersk Shipping of Denmark too delivery of the Maren Maersk, the latest in its record-setting giant Triple E class. These ships are not only the world’s longest, but also the most efficient container ships per twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) of cargo, according to Maersk. They measure 400 metres (1,312 ft) long and 59 metres (194 ft) wide. Maersk has ordered a total of 20 from Daewoo Shipbuilding of South Korea.

An important design feature of the Triple E class is its dual 32-megawatt (43,000 hp) two-stroke diesel engines, aimed at driving two propellers at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). This is actually slower than ships of Maersk’s previous E class, because the Triple Es use slow steaming, which lowers fuel consumption by 37% and carbon dioxide emissions per TEU by 50%.

The first of the class to enter service, Maersk McKinney Møller, this year set a record by carrying more than 18,000 TEUs from Algeciras in Spain to Malaysia. This was quickly overtaken, though, by a Chinese newbuilding, the CSCL Globe, built by Hyundai Heavy Industries for China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) of Shanghai. The first of five eco-ships ordered by the company, CSCL Globe can carry 730 more TEU than Maersk’s Triple Es and also claims to burn 20% less fuel per container. These vessels are the same length as Maersk’s giants, but narrower.

Three trading companies that are together responsible for chartering almost 10% of cargo worldwide each year are backing an eco initiative which means they will always choose, when possible, to fix the most energy efficient ship available.

Prominent Swiss-based trader Cargill, Unipec UK, subsidiary of China’s biggest oil trader, and US-listed chemical manufacturer Huntsman Corporation have agreed to support an initiative by international think-tank the Carbon War Room. Together with ship-vetting and environmental risk specialists Rightship, it has ranked a total of 60,000 ships from A to G according to their fuel efficiency.

Cargill has announced that it will no longer seek to charter vessels in the two lowest categories, F&G, which are said to represent 10-15% of the world fleet. Peter Boyd, chief operating officer of the Carbon War Room, commented: “[Cargill’s move] represents the first major capital shift on behalf of the charterers towards making greater efficiency a factor in their vessel-chartering decisions.”