Ships carry around 90 percent of the world’s commodities and account for over two percent of global CO2 emissions, or 940 million metric tons a year. Vessels’ exhausts emit hazardous pollutants of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter which damage the environment and endanger health. If nothing changes, maritime emissions could increase between 50 and 250 percent by 2050. This together with the necessity to shift towards a net zero carbon world means that the shipping industry needs to reach carbon-neutral operations by 2050. In the short- to- medium term this requires action on fuels- a switch from diesel to low sulphur fuel, LNG or even hydrogen as well as battery technology to store electricity and help power vessels at sea, on rivers and canals. But to reach net zero shipping, like the rest of the world, will need to go substantially, if not wholly, electric. Whilst this change will be a cost to the maritime sector, it offers a business opportunity to others including oil companies, which are turning into all- purpose energy companies.
What’s driving the interest in electric ships?
First and foremost, ships are serious polluters, a fact that has only been widely recognised relatively recently. The industry produces a huge amount of exhaust gases such as sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, soot particles and fine dust and carbon dioxide (CO2). For example, market researchers at Ditched One; have calculated that one single large ship emits as much CO2 as 70,000 cars, as much nitrogen oxide as 2 million cars and as much fine dust and carcinogenic particles as 2.5 million cars. Overall, ships produce 15 percent of global nitrogen oxide emissions.
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