a clean ship
The global shipping industry is becoming increasingly
proactive in its approach to improving environmental performance, both
in response to new regulations introduced by the International
Maritime Organisation (IMO) and as a result of customer-led pressure
to reduce maritime pollution. There is no better illustration of the coordinated
international effort in this area than the EU-funded TRESHIP thematic
network (Technologies for reduced environmental impact from ships).
, which means wooden vessel in Norwegian, involves over 40 partners, including
the large shipping insurance concerns Det
Norske Veritas and Lloyds'
Register , and research bodies such as Delft
Technical University and the Norwegian
University for Science and Technology . The network is looking at
how the industry can help to reduce pollution in three main areas: ship
building and maintenance; ships in operation; and the demolition or scrapping
Network coordinator Nils Telle of the Norwegian
Shipowners' Association says, "Pollution knows no borders and
there is therefore no choice other than to work transnationally on ways
of combating it. The value of TRESHIP lies in the pooling of partners'
resources and expertise."
of the most topical ship maintenance issues concerns the forthcoming
IMO ban on tin-based anti-fouling paints. These protect immersed
hull surfaces against the growth of organisms such as barnacles
and algae, which greatly reduces fuel efficiency and speed. But
the best coating systems contain volatile organic compounds such
as tributyltin (TBT) and TBT self-polishing copolymers. Studies
show that the tin released into the sea by TBT can be extremely
harmful for marine life, for example causing adverse reproductive
effects on shellfish such as whelks.
In the past there has been considerable demand
for these paints because they offer a high degree of reliable and
consistent protection against fouling, and hulls only need to be
cleaned every five years as opposed to every three years for TBT-free
alternatives. The progressive banning of these coating systems by
2008 means that alternatives have to be found.
Mr Telle says that paint producers are responding
to the challenge and are well advanced with tests for new products.
"The highly demanding development phase," he says, "requires
significant long-term investment and the new paints must be proved
to have no other side effects on marine life." A Norwegian
programme involving the testing of TBT-free paints on 12 ships,
which is being monitored by TRESHIP partner MARINTEK
, should be completed by 2006.
The TRESHIP partners have also been investigating
and comparing new methods for cleaning hulls such as hydro-blasting
and vacuum blasting. The current technique of grit blasting has
itself been criticised for the high levels of airborne and sometimes
toxic dust generated.
||No to NOx!
today's ships release significantly less oil directly into the sea
than just a decade ago, they are still the biggest source of maritime
pollution. It is estimated that shipping is responsible for 5-10%
of the acid rain that falls in coastal areas, and even more around
ports where more fuel is used during launching and landing manoeuvres.
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and particles
(unburned hydrocarbons) cause the greatest concern. For example,
ships generate 45 grams of NOx per kilowatt of power generated compared
to 5 grams for heavy goods vehicles. Sulphur Oxides (SOx),
which are directly related to sulphur content levels in fuel oil,
are another harmful pollutant that the industry is working to reduce.
Research into the use of alternative fuels such
as gas has been a key theme for TRESHIP. There is still a long way
to go before gas turbine engines can compete with their diesel counterparts,
but they could ultimately reduce NOx and SOx
emissions by 80-90% without increasing overall fuel consumption.
They are of course well suited to the needs of particular customers,
such as national navies requiring ever-stealthier noise-free vessels,
or luxury ferry operators concerned with the comfort of their passengers.
The up-market cruise company Royal
Caribbean , for example, has already put in an order with Chantiers
de l'Atlantique in Saint Nazaire, France.
||Towards the testing
of fuel cells
agreed IMO regulations will not come into effect for several years,
but public opinion and government policy agendas are pushing the
industry to act sooner. The formal representation of shipping for
the first time at the seventh session of the conference of the parties
to the Kyoto climate agreement, held in Marrakesh in November 2001,
is indicative of its commitment.
One of the next major challenges is the testing
of hydrogen-based fuel cells on board ships. While the automotive
industry has made considerable advances in this area, such technology
will probably not be a regular feature on merchant vessels for another
ten years. A bid for research funds has recently been submitted
to the Commission, and the TRESHIP partners are eagerly awaiting
Research aimed at improving environmental
performance of maritime transport is currently supported under
the Growth Programme's 'Land
transport and marine technologies' key action
TRESHIP - Technologies for reduced environmental
impact from ships.