Industries all over the world, including shipping, are looking for sustainable alternatives that can help lessen their negative impact on the environment. In this article, we will look into one of the most promising sustainable options for the shipping industry. Liquefied natural gas or LNG ships. We will try to determine whether it is indeed the green solution it is hoped to be.

There are many environmental and ecological effects of shipping. A recent study published by Science Direct highlighted the overall impact of the shipping industry on aquatic and nearshore environments. It can be categorised into three categories:

  • Discharges in water. Includes spills, operational discharge, wastewater, non-indigenous species, and antifouling paints.
  • Physical impacts. Pertain to noise, artificial light, shoreline erosion, grounding, resuspension of sediments and wildlife collisions.
  • Air emissions. Refer to the greenhouse gases that are generated by the industry. Such as volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and other substances that deplete the ozone layer.

The recognition of these disturbances on the environment has led many firms to prioritise more sustainable options. Such as liquefied natural gas and the LNG ships.

The reality behind LNG ships

The increased limitations on sulphur emissions by ships – a measure introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) earlier this year – has also contributed to the growing popularity of LNG. In fact, a study by Statista has noted a steady increase in the consumption of natural gas. It amounted to nearly 3.8 trillion cubic meters worldwide. Still, despite these efforts, a new study conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that the use of LNG in international shipping may result in more greenhouse gas emissions than first thought. The report argued that instead of delivering emission reductions, LNG might worsen the impacts of the shipping industry on the environment.

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As noted in our post ‘Sustainable Ports: Supporting Environomy’, the shipping sector accounts for approximately 3% of all global emissions, and 34% of all discharge into the sea. This makes it crucial for companies to initiate studies on just how effective switching to LNG could be in mitigating damage to the environment.

We’ve also spoken with Jan Tideman, senior shipping analyst at Alphaliner, about the IMO 2020 and the sulphur cap regulation and LNG ships.

Alternatives other than LNG

It also becomes increasingly important to secure additional ways to reduce the industry’s strain on the environment. It can be done by introducing new technology and processes that help this cause. For instance, firms can introduce telematics to their operations – methods that can help manage fuel and equipment. It can do so by using data from satellites to track routes and locations. Telematics could help companies create more efficient routes and provide insights into driver patterns, thereby lowering fuel consumption and the subsequent impact on the environment.

The reality of LNG is a blow for many in the industry. But luckily other things can be done to make shipping greener. According to High North News emissions vary based on the engine type. Low-pressure, dual-fuel (LPDF) engines, which are currently the most popular type of LNG-burning engines, emit 70% more greenhouse gases when used with LNG.

Another path for the shipping industry to look at could be managing their logistics differently. They can do so by securing the services of different online platforms to promote the better management of container logistics. Something that is offered by xChange. By doing this, they can successfully help in lowering emissions by reducing the need to move empty containers.

Although the shipping industry has grown more aware of its impact on the environment and has begun taking measures to mitigate them, it remains essential that each measure taken is cross-examined to ensure that it isn’t doing more harm than good. As expressed by Kendra Ulrich, senior shipping campaigner at Stand.Earth, the reality behind LNG “should serve as an alarming wake-up call for the International Maritime Organization” and inspire them to look into this option further.

Written for by J.Bire