Low Carbon Shipping & Shipping in Changing Climates

A Research Led Consortium on Sustainable Shipping



The long-term viability of the shipping industry is dependent on its various interconnections with ecological, environmental, economic and human systems. Currently, the industry is facing scrutiny on issues ranging from air pollution to noise pollution and from human safety to marine biodiversity. Perhaps the most pressing issue for the industry is climate change and its mitigation. The sector is commonly cited as the most environmentally friendly form of transport but this will be a challenge in the future as it current contribution (around 3% of global CO2 emissions) is expected to increase to around 20 – 25% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions by 2050 as other sectors under national inventories decarbonise. The industry has adopted ‘first of its kind’ international regulation in its efforts to mitigate CO2 emissions, but the impact is estimated by some to be around a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions on business as usual by 2050, far from the reductions required if the industry was to be sustainable. The LCS consortium through its research activities such as the SCC project aims to inform the policy making process by developing new knowledge and understanding on the subject of the shipping system, its energy efficiency and emissions, and its transition to a low carbon, more resilient future.

The important questions facing the industry are; How will the mandated introduction of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) in 2013 lead to changes in the fleet; will ships fit sulphur scrubbing technology or switch to distillate fuel in 2015 (MARPOL); will Selective Catalytic Reduction and Exhaust Gas Recirculation technology be compatible with scrubbing solutions to allow continued use of heavy fuel oil in Emissions Control Areas from 2016 (MARPOL); will Liquid Natural Gas become a mainstream fuel; will wind power see a renaissance and will ships remain slow or speed up again?

The consortium in the LCS project has provided some of the first tools for scenario analysis and exploration of how external drivers may influence mid to long-term trends in the shipping industry. To date, this research has investigated the sector’s fundamentals in detail (technology, operation, logistics, ports, economics, demand and policy). More about LCS

In the longer term, whilst the wider mitigation and adaptation rhetoric still focuses on avoiding a 2°C temperature rise, implementation to achieve this lags far behind and the current global energy consumption levels put the Earth on a trajectory to warm by 6°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Shipping is no exception: although dialogue about its decarbonisation role and responsibilities exists at the IMO, EU and UK, no carbon policies have yet been implemented. Indeed, the EU recently suspended plans to introduce regional CO2 legislation for shipping, preferring for the time being to focus on monitoring, reporting and verification. The rapidly shifting landscape that the changing climate has the potential to create (either directly or indirectly) has implications for wider energy, food and economic systems in which shipping plays a major role: emphasising the need for strategic and long-term planning.

The consortium in the SCC project seeks to understand the scope for greater energy efficiency of the supply side, understand the demand side drivers and understanding the supply and demand interactions in shipping. To research these themes the consortium utilises its access to ‘big data’ and modelling to understand real performance trends and drivers, validate assumptions, computational simulations and models and verify whole systems results. More about SCC