New research calls for urgent action on current fleet emissions

A new study from the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester highlights that CO2 emissions from existing vessels will dominate shipping’s impact on the climate, and ‘could even swallow up shipping’s entire safe carbon budget’.

The research, published in the BMC Energy journal, calls for the implementation of policies which focus on decarbonising and retrofitting existing ships, rather than just relying on new, more efficient ships to achieve the necessary carbon reductions.

The Tyndall Centre report does point to a number of ways in which ships already in service can cut their emissions, such as travelling at slower speeds, fitting new renewable rotor technologies, connecting to grid electricity while in port, and retrofitting other energy saving measures. The study flags up a number of projects, such as the 2018 retrofit installation of two 30-metre-tall Norsepower Flettner rotor sails on the Maersk Pelican ship, which can help to cut these committed emissions.

The study was led by climate scientists at the Tyndall Centre and analyses new CO2, ship age and scrappage datasets covering the 11,000 ships included in the European Union’s monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) scheme.

Researcher James Mason commented: ‘This research highlights the key role existing ships play in tackling the climate crisis. We must push for quick action for these ships, whether through speed reductions or other innovative solutions such as wind propulsion.

Climate Change Lecturer at The University of Manchester, Dr John Broderick also noted: ‘Unlike in aviation, there are many different ways to decarbonise the shipping sector, but there must be much greater attention paid to retrofitting the existing fleet, before it’s too late to deliver on the net-zero target.’

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes