Green cargo ships
- Interesting article below about near zero-emission freight movment by cargo
ships. Of course, there is the ironic reference to the number of "cars and
trucks" that the ship would be capable of carrying...
High-Tech Ship Sets Course for Green Ocean Transport
SWEDEN: May 30, 2005
STOCKHOLM - Will technological advances, fuel costs and environmental concerns
bring back commercial sailing for cargo ships?
Shipping firm Wallenius Wilhelmsen (WW) has designed a high-tech "back to the
future" freighter powered solely by wind and waves in the expectation that
increasing regulation and shipping costs over the next 20 years will force the
industry to come up with greener vessels.
"In part it is legislation, in part that we want to be seen as innovators,"
said Lena Blomqvist, WW's vice president with responsibility for the
environment. "We realise that we are part of the problem and we want to be
part of the solution."
The Orcelle will have emission levels near zero and WW hopes the design would
allow such a ship to carry up 10,000 cars and trucks and set the pattern for
the future transport of cargo.
Propulsion for the five-hulled ship, named after an endangered species of
dolphin, would come from high-tech sails and a set of pods below the water
line that would trap the energy of the waves. Additionally, solar cells in the
sails would charge fuel cells to power electric motors.
"When we are on the ocean we have almost limitless access to energy, but a
modern vessel fights the elements," said Per Brinchmann, the naval architect
who designed the ship to turn the power of mother nature into motion on the
"The albatross gets 98 percent of its energy for flight from the wind and two
percent from its wings."
Concern for the bottom line has already pushed WW to cut the fuel use of its
existing fleet by 10 percent over the last few years and reduce nitrogen and
sulphur dioxide emissions.
Sulphur dioxide causes acid rain and nitrogen emissions upset the balance of
nutrients in the ocean, both big problems in the Baltic Sea where WW is based.
LEGAL AND CORPORATE PRESSURE
Regulators are also stepping up pressure.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will introduce rules to cut
sulphur in fuels for some ocean regions in 2006. WW said its low sulphur fuels
costs around $20 dollars per tonne more than the standard fuel.
Tighter rules on oil emissions in bilge water, anti-fouling paints and
recycling are also likely to follow.
At the same time, companies which transport goods by ship need to reassure
increasingly concerned investors that they are taking green issues in their
supply chain seriously.
One of the firm's major clients, an auto manufacturer, now audits the
emissions of shipping firms.
"Other customers will come and ask for it as part of their own corporate
responsibility work," said Blomqvist.
It is not just pollution from marine diesel -- higher in sulphur and worse for
the environment than more refined types of fuel -- which the new ship would
Clever design on the Orcelle eliminates the need for ballast water, which can
contain up to 7,000 marine species that have a huge impact when dumped outside
their native ecosystem.
"Ballast water is a huge, huge problem," said Dr Simon Walmsley, head of the
World Wide Fund for Nature's British marine programme. "It affects
biodiversity and has the potential to wipe out indigenous species which are
Areas like the Arctic are particularly at risk, he said.
Between 3 billion and 5 billion tonnes of ballast water is transported around
the world by ships each year, not far behind the 6 billion tonnes of cargo
carried in 2003.
IMO rules on ballast water should be introduced in 2009.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen is showing off its design at the World Expo in Japan,
which opened at the end of March.
Although the Orcelle may never to be built, WW believes that like a concept
car, much of the technology showcased on the ship will find its way into
vessels over the next 20 years.
"This vessel is a demonstration of what is feasible, what could be feasible
and what should be feasible," said Brinchmann, who began his career designing
The WWF backs the move but wants shipping companies to go even further.
"It is a step in the right direction," said the WWF's Walmsley. "But the whole
shipping industry need to be looked at at every level from design through to
Story by Simon Johnson