Decarbonization Through Optimization

Achieving decarbonization requires more than just a sense of environmental responsibility and good intentions. It also calls for clear short-term and long-term decarbonization strategies.

In this article, we will focus on how the shipping industry can work toward the goal of decarbonization through optimization or increased energy efficiency.

Route planning and optimization mean decision-makers must juggle many competing factors. For ship captains, this is a complex challenge. They must have immediate access to a decision-supporting tool that facilitates confident decision-making and execution. 

To meet the challenge of optimization, with benefits including reduced carbon emissions and cost-effectiveness through fuel economy, DTN has developed SPOS (Ship Performance Optimization System) & Vessel Routing API.

Large ship with black exhaust

Why decarbonization is necessary – IMO 2030 / 2050

The United Nations Foundation has commented on its website regarding the shipping industry and the Paris climate agreement. The comment reads, “transforming global shipping is a critical part of reaching the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C and building zero emissions”.

For that lofty goal to be accomplished, decarbonization is a significant component. The International Maritime Organization has repeatedly addressed this goal of reducing co2 emissions and global temperatures. 

To understand precisely how the IMO’s carbon dioxide regulation impacts the shipping industry and how you can effectively manage the carbon dioxide rating of your ships, check out this informative article: “How IMO’s Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) ratings impact shipping.”

Decarbonization is now a big priority for governments and society in general. To make this priority a reality, though, major industries that have a high dependency on fossil fuels, including the shipping industry, need to move decisively toward clean energy.

The shipping and transport sector is undoubtedly vital to the global economy accounting for an enormous percentage of international trade. It is an essential industry facilitating the supply of necessary goods. Unfortunately, it is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) seeks by the year 2030 to affect a 40 percent reduction in global shipping carbon emissions. The long-term goal is, by 2050, to reduce them by 70 percent off the 2008 baseline. This is a clear signal to the industry to get ready for a major energy transition.

Since no shipowner wants to be caught with a fleet of dead assets if and when those changes become mandatory, now is the time to make changes proactively.

Container ship leaving port

How optimization and weather routing helps shipping companies lower their carbon emissions

Achieving permanently lower carbon emissions through clean energy seems a long way off. Primarily, this is because no viable alternative method to the fueling of large container ships has yet come into common use. Although several are being developed, a commercially viable alternative does not yet exist.

There are numerous challenges facing the introduction and use of zero-carbon fuel, including:

  • The logistical challenge of needing a large amount of fuel storage onboard ships
  • The need for these fuels to be replenished in port
  • Battery power is so far only possible for vessels like ferries undertaking short voyages
  • Nuclear propulsion is another alternative under consideration; however, there is a lack of public support due to the associated risks
  • The 170 member states of the IMO have competing interests, and this presents challenges to the coordination of measures aimed at limiting emissions

With all these challenges in mind, it becomes evident that specific measures are more immediately accessible than others with the potential to have an immediate impact. 

Possible solutions fit into four basic categories. Three of these categories are technological, market-based, and management measures. The fourth category is operational measures.

The solution readily available to your shipping company right now is this fourth operational (or fleet-related) category that can benefit you in your quest to reduce emissions. Operational measures include voyage optimization, route planning, and speed management.

Forward thinkers in critical industries around the globe are putting technology to use to manage their decarbonization objectives better. One such technology is the Ship Performance Optimization System (SPOS), developed by DTN. How can it help you be more fuel-efficient and decarbonize through optimization?

SPOS is an easy to install and user-friendly solution. It helps your ship navigate more efficiently, leading to a reduced environmental footprint. This is achieved by continually calculating the optimal route based on current and forecasted marine weather data, including sea and wave conditions.

Weather optimized routing is one key feature of SPOS & Vessel Routing API. The ability to navigate from point to point efficiently and safely is accomplished by providing precise speed and heading recommendations. These are calculated by integrating critical data related to the vessel’s performance and the effect of existing and forecast weather conditions on it.

Optimization is achieved through the following essentials:

  • Weather Data
  • Vessel Profiles
  • Unique Routing Algorithm
  • Weather Optimized Route Network
  • Input from Master Mariners

Two container ships at sea
This essential data of weather routing optimization allows for the sea voyage to be completed in the least possible time with the minimum fuel consumption. This increases the voyage’s profitability and enables your successful decarbonization as it reduces the environmental impact of each trip.

Choosing the correct or optimum route depends on the weather forecast, sea conditions, and vessel performance metrics. Using SPOS to find and navigate the optimized course will consistently give fuel savings of between 2 and 5%. The variance depends on such factors as vessel type and sea conditions.

The subsequent reduction in fuel usage is a vital help toward your decarbonization goals. Increased scrutiny of the shipping industry in connection with environmental concerns and sustainability continues to intensify. With this in mind, decreased fuel consumption is high on the shipping industry’s list of priorities.

The shipping industry currently produces 3% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The IMO’s targets aim to change this status quo, and the weather routing optimization provided by SPOS will help you work in harmony with this momentum toward greater environmental responsibility.

To learn more about the benefits of optimization, with high-level perks including reduced carbon emissions and cost-effectiveness through fuel economy, see SPOS (Ship Performance Optimization System) by DTN.