How technology is helping ships to cut emissions at sea and in ports

Did you know that sea transport is the largest carrier of freight throughout recorded history?

Each year, tankers, bulk carriers, and container ships carry billions of tonnes of goods. In the European Union alone, the total short sea shipping in 2014 is estimated at 1,8 billion tonnes. Actually, it’s most likely that the things you own were transported to you in a shipping container. 90% of world trade is transported by sea.

But while there are obvious benefits to marine transport, there are also environmental consequences.

More and more companies are getting involved in taking care of the oceans, especially on days like the World Oceans Day – which is celebrated every 8th of June. The main message behind this year’s theme is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet”.

The giants of the transportation industry are answering the call. “There has in recent years been a focus on slower speed at sea in order to reduce fuel consumption“, as we can read in the Research in Transportation Business & Management Study published in December 2015. “And there has indeed been a significant reduction in CO2 emissions per transport work as a consequence of slow steaming”.

Before we get out into the open waters, though, we have to take great care of the situation in the ports worldwide. There are at least several arguments for addressing the CO2-emission reductions.  The Positive side effects of using less fuel during a ship port call are:

  • fewer nitrogen oxides;
  • less sulphur dioxide and particles.

Decreasing emissions, according to Science Direct, may have a significant impact on the air quality in the port city.

And that’s where ABB comes in.

Eliminating port emissions is a priority for us

There are more than 100,000 vessels docking at 4,500 ports worldwide. The problem is that the ships burn fuel even at a port. That results in over 900 million metric tons of poisonous emissions emitted annually. It might not seem like it at a first glance, but it is a serious problem. An environmental and financial one. Not only do the vessels emit the CO2 equivalent of 220 coal-fired plants, but it also costs a lot in fuel.

a ship in a port

We can also provide another example. In 8 hours, a large vessel running its auxiliary engines emits the equivalent amount of NOX in 8 hours as 10,000 cars driving from Zurich to London.

The people living in port towns might also complain about the noise and vibration generated by the ships. The good news is, ABB has a solution. With electricity supplied from the shore, we can eliminate lots of these troublesome features. We’ve prepared special substations, equipped to accommodate both 50Hz and 60Hz vessels from different parts of the world, enabling ships to shut down their engines and plug in to an onshore power source. All that with no disruption to onboard services.

The solution is beneficial for both the citizens and the ship owners. The people can live in a close vicinity while the owners can count on lowered maintenance and operating costs – potentially in the region of $750,000 annually.

ABB seeks for zero emission port call. We pioneered the shore-to-ship technology in 2000; since then, it has been adopted at ports throughout Asia and Europe, the most recent being Stena Line at the port of Rotterdam, the port of Ystad in Sweden, and at Viktor Lenac shipyard in Croatia.

Azipod gearless propulsor improves safety, energy efficiency, maneuverability, and performance

ABB pioneered the Azipod propulsion systems. They’re found not only on LNG carriers or icebreakers but on superyachts as well. ABB can apply them in more than 20 ship types.

ABB's Azipod D

Originally developed in Finland jointly with the shipbuilding company Masa-Yards, Azipod is a marine propulsion unit consisting of a fixed pitch propeller mounted on a steerable gondola. The latter also contains the electric motor driving the propeller.

The benefits of implementing Azipod propulsion are huge:

  • improved safety and redundancy;
  • improved fuel efficiency and reduced life-cycle cost;
  • lower fuel consumption and exhaust emissions;
  • reduced noise and vibration.

Azipods are the most environmental friendly propulsion systems available, with reduced fuel consumption and exhaust emissions due to improved hydrodynamic efficiency and the power plant concept.

Recently, ABB introduced Azipod D, the most recent iteration of an electric propulsion system. Its most noticeable virtues are a long maintenance interval (compared to mechanical gear-driven thrusters) and its flexibility.

ABB's Azipod Propulsion System

We’ve had very good operational experience with this Azipod,” said Eidesvik Chief Operating Officer Jan Lodden. “We’ve had it in service for 12 years without any major overhaul. That is also unique when you see these types of propulsion units.”

When it comes to numbers, the entire Azipod unit base has accumulated more than 12 million operating hours – that means more than 700,000 tons of saved fuel. Feel free to check out more details below.

ABB's Azipod Infographic

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About the author

Antoni Żółciak

I'm a Web Specialist for ABB's Corporate Communications department, where I spend most of the time taking care of ABB's digital presence. My main responsibilities include content creation, management for SEO and conversion purposes, promoting the brand on social media, and providing consulting services for the company's internal stakeholders.
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