The climate crisis is the biggest challenge mankind faces since its existence. Since decades this scenario has been forecasted and discussed till death, far too little has happened. We´ve never been closer to “point of no return” and shipping as one of the big emitters has to be part of the change, argues Henning Gramann, CEO, Green Ship Recycling Services.
verreacting has never solved a problem. Is new tonnage providing the required change?
Forecasts see many ships heading for the torch due to new emissions requirements like EEXI and CII in the near future. History repeats itself here, same had been said in regards to phasing out of single-hull tankers, ballast water requirements, and many more, but very few ships have been recycled.
If more ships will be recycled due to EEXI and CII they need to be replaced with new ships for ensuring sufficient transport capacities. While new ships are generally considered more environmentally friendly and efficient, the question is “compared to what”? Many different approaches show positive results when looking at emissions per ton-mile, daily fuel consumption, fuel used and so on.
What is the overall equation? Will renewal of the global fleet bring the required change or is repairing and extending the life-cycle of ships more environmentally friendly than building new ones?
In many cases repairing is more sustainable and saving resources than purchasing new. This has been ignored more and more in the last decades and one-way products including all components are the norm. If a component breaks it is replaced as a complete unit, or the entire product becomes waste.
Engineering should and can do better than this. What has been produced has already caused damage in form of consumption of resources and energy, emissions, and so on. Since years a heated discussion around e-cars goes on and claiming emission-free transportation in most cases is not true. Producing the required energy causes emissions, unless regenerative sources are used, but solar panels, wind turbines etc. had to be produced before as well. Additionally a lot of energy is consumed for producing a new e-car which equals to driving an existing diesel car for 100 thousand kilometres or so. That´s a long distance travelled already by an old asset when the new one enters into service and will do its first miles with a big battery fuel of scarce materials.
Much more energy is required for building a ship. Raw materials are to be excavated for getting the materials required for manufacturing components, equipment, the hull and many other products in huge quantities. Those need to be transported from somewhere to the shipyard. A lot of steel is required which then is to be connected by kilometres of welding lines. Most of us know how it smells and then the paintjob comes on top. Not all is CO2 or other gaseous emissions, there are many more which must not be forgotten. Light, noise, liquids and solids, not to forget the wastes produced during ship construction. Should all these be added to shippings´ carbon footprint as well?
What is the lesson learned here? Whatever we do causes disturbance and emissions, we´re still far away from an environmentally harmless economy and style of living. When we want to change for the better and most urgently protecting the climate, we need to consider the whole lot including how and what we produce. Awareness by consumers is required as their demands are met by production. Alternatively, if production changes, the consumers can only get such products. A limited view on e.g. alternative fuels pose the risk that we will only look at what comes out of the funnel but miss the fundamental change needed on the ground.
For sure ships have a long life span and “eco newbuildings” have some positive effects, but what about the full context? When evaluated properly and if the outcome is positive, only then sending more ships to recycling yards can be a good and viable option. Of course, the recycling yards need to be the proper ones which can handle the ships and all materials in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Otherwise the whole initiative misses the fundamentals it is based on and wasting resources.
The full scope for measuring and reducing the impact of human activities can be found in the principles of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) which has to start with a Life-Cycle-Assessment. It reaches from product design, material selection, wastes, emissions, and production via usage of products to collection and segregation of materials for returning those as “technical nutrients” fully for producing new products. That´s a complex endeavour as during product design the full circle needs to be considered. Also developing and managing related information for all involved is an important aspect, otherwise it can´t work. Interdisciplinary exchange and action is required for changing habits and markets.
With the knowledge we have it can be achieved, but not by looking at the funnel only. Time to broaden the view and joining hands.
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.