Could Marine Water Solutions Decarbonise the Maritime Industry?

The maritime industry contributes 3% of global carbon emissions and consumes approximately 300 million tonnes of fuel every year, with over 100,000 commercial vessels functioning. The industry has a huge impact on the environment, causing harm to oceans and marine life. If it is to head towards zero carbon shipping, sustainable ship management services such as marine water solutions must be implemented.

Decarbonisation is a complex issue, and the climate crisis is not simple to solve. There are many challenges to decarbonising the maritime industry, but marine water solutions offer a potential solution to addressing environmental concerns. From cruise liners to merchant vessels, the maritime industry is a vast and global business. Up to 90% of the world’s trade is transported across the ocean, so eco-friendly solutions to reduce carbon emissions are essential. 

The world has woken up to climate change. It’s no longer an issue of the future – we are in it. The maritime industry is implementing change and adopting marine water solutions to help the mission of decarbonising by 2050.

The Maritime Industry’s Carbon Problem

Urgent action is vital to accelerate the speed of decarbonising the global economy. In a study carried out in 2020, The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reported that in 2018, global shipping energy consumption accounted for nearly 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). If the international shipping sector were a country, it would be the sixth largest CO2 emitter. 

The current state of carbon emissions in the maritime sector is extensive, contributing to the climate crisis and having a negative impact on the environment. The industry has a responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint and implement the necessary changes to move towards a more sustainable future. 

What are Marine Water Solutions?

Ballast Water Treatment

Ballast water treatment systems prevent the transfer of invasive species between varying marine ecosystems by treating ballast water. A variety of methods including physical, chemical, or biological are used to remove or neutralise harmful organisms. Ballast water can contain thousands of aquatic or marine microbes, plants, and animals, which are carried across the globe. Invasive species have already cause devastating consequences for the local ecosystem. 

Wastewater Management

Modern vessels have wastewater management systems onboard to purify sewage and wastewater from sinks, showers, and kitchens. This reduces pollution in the world’s oceans and minimises environmental impact. 

Desalination and Freshwater Creation

Some vessels have desalination systems onboard to convert seawater into freshwater – vital for drinking and washing. This reduces the need for freshwater supplies in plastic bottles. The implementation of reusable stainless-steel bottles to supply freshwater for passengers and crew reduces single-use plastic waste and helps protect the planet. 

The production of plastic bottles and single-use plastic causes harm to marine life and pollutes the planet. The process of reverse osmosis means a constant supply of drinking water is produced onboard ships, eliminating the need for plastic water bottles. 

Anti-Fouling Technology

Specialised coatings are applied to the hull of a ship, deterring the attachment of marine organisms (biofouling). This improves fuel consumption and helps maintain the efficiency of a vessel. As a result, carbon emissions are reduced to help protect the environment. 

Decarbonisation Potential

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) seeks to identify a realistic pathway consistent with a societal goal of bringing CO2 emissions closer to net zero by 2050. 

Decarbonisation involves switching from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, to carbon-free alternatives. It’s essential for the maritime industry to stop burning fossil fuels, reducing its carbon emissions. It’s also vital to reduce the consumption of plastic, due to the energy required when producing plastic and the pollution it causes. 

Carbon free alternatives involve implementing scientific research and new technologies to create new energy sources. Adopting eco-friendly practices on board ships and across the maritime industry is vital going forward. Marine water solutions have a positive effect on vessel efficiency and are a step towards environmental sustainability. 

Zero Carbon Shipping in the Maritime Industry

If the maritime industry is to become decarbonised, it must adopt best sustainable business practices. Marine water solutions such as ballast water treatment, wastewater management, and anti-fouling technology all help to reduce energy consumption, improve fuel efficiency, and reduce pollution. 

The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping is a research centre based in Copenhagen, collaborating with global partners in the shipping sector to research decarbonisation solutions. It aims to decarbonise the maritime industry by 2050, driving improved sustainable technologies. 

The centre has specialist knowledge and experience, guiding and promoting alternative sustainable solutions for the shipping sector. Using scientific data and research, it offers zero carbon shipping solutions so businesses across the industry can work together to make positive environmental change. 

Accelerating the transition to decarbonisation involves implementing marine water solutions and reducing CO2 emissions. This transition requires extensive technological advancements and industry leadership. 

Challenges of Decarbonisation

There are barriers facing decarbonisation and the widespread adoption of marine water solutions across the maritime industry, including technological costs and an industry resistance to change. It takes time, research, and knowledge to make the right choices. Some vessel operators want to continue their operations as usual, but if the industry is to head towards decarbonisation, every single business across the industry must adopt marine water solutions and reduce their CO2 emissions. 

Is Decarbonisation Possible with Marine Water Solutions?

There is huge potential in maritime businesses implementing marine water solutions. Ballast water treatment improves propulsion and reduces stress on the hull of a ship, improving a vessel’s efficiency. Proper wastewater management reduces the amount of wastewater entering the world’s oceans, reducing harm caused to marine life and the environment. Anti-fouling technology helps maintain the efficiency of a vessel and reduces fuel consumption.

Due to the urgency of addressing carbon emissions across the industry, it is vital for ship operators and marine businesses to adopt sustainable practices, and marine water solutions help reduce pollution and CO2 emissions. There is a critical need for sustainable solutions across the whole maritime sector if it is to decarbonise by 2050.