By Emily Vidovich. Emily has a background in environmental journalism and sustainability and is a member of the George Washington University Class of 2019.
Maritime shipping transports approximately 11 billion tons of goods annually, facilitating the global economy and providing people worldwide with diverse materials and necessities. In the process, the shipping sector produces nearly three percent of manmade emissions.
At the latest United Nations climate conference, COP27, global leaders sought to address the shipping industry’s status as one of the top ten contributors to climate change through the Green Shipping Challenge.
At the challenge’s launch on November 7, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of State, “countries, ports, and companies made more than 40 major announcements on issues such as innovations for ships, expansion in low or zero-emission fuels, and policies to help promote the uptake of next-generation vessels.”
One of AltaSea’s blue economy partner organizations, Smart Green Shipping, has been at the forefront of developing technologies that address all three of the Green Shipping Challenge’s focal points. Smart Green Shipping seeks to enable the global shipping fleet to take advantage of wind energy—a free, abundant, and renewable resource. It does this by retrofitting existing cargo ships with wingsails as well as designing 100% renewable newly built ships.
To enable existing ships to harness wind power, the company designed sails that can be installed onto the empty deck space of commercial vessels. This technology requires no additional crew members or portside maintenance, further increasing the feasibility of its installation. The company estimates that there are 40,000 existing ships that could be transitioned into hybrid sailing vessels through this retrofit. With United Nations climate experts warning that greenhouse gas emissions must no longer increase after 2025 if the world is to avoid catastrophic consequences from climate change, Smart Green Shipping’s technology for retrofitting existing ships is a practical way to reduce the shipping sector’s emissions as rapidly as possible.
Smart Green Shipping also optimizes the operation of both retrofitted and newly built wind-powered ships by monitoring and predicting winds through its proprietary data analysis tool. As explained in Business & Innovation Magazine, this technology is essentially a, “sophisticated analysis system that can accurately calculate the available wind to any ship, across any trade route at different speeds.”
Through the combination of innovative systems design and strategic use of technology, Smart Green Shipping’s retrofit of existing cargo ships has proven itself capable of decreasing a vessel’s annual emissions by 20 percent. For the company, the 20 percent emissions reduction is just a starting point as it continues to pursue greater optimization of equipment and technology in order to accelerate the shipping industry’s green transition.