Green Technologies in The Shipping Industry

The shipping industry has been a staple of business for hundreds of years. Shipping has revolutionized the way we live by allowing goods from around the world to be sent almost anywhere. The shipping industry also has a history of adapting with the times and adopting technological advancements. That adaptability has ensured the industry’s survival, but the latest problem the shipping industry faces might be the biggest challenge yet. 

As the global community begins to recognize and react to the looming environmental crisis, many institutions are being forced to adopt greener operating methods and the shipping industry is no exception. Eco-friendly technologies are making their way into the shipping industry and slowly but surely, the industry is adapting again. Here are a few of the green technologies shaping the shipping industry as we head into 2020. 

Slow Steaming

Slow steaming is the process of operating transoceanic ships at less than their top speed to reduce fuel consumption. Slow steaming is not a new practice and was first seen rising to prominence in the shipping industry in 2007 as a response to rising fuel costs. Since 2007, slow steaming has become a regular practice as using less fuel saves money and reduces carbon emissions. 

End of Traditional Water Ballast Ships

Ballast, in the simplest terms, is a weight used to keep a watercraft balanced and ensure a ship’s propellers are always underwater. Ships inadequate ballast are at risk of tipping and potentially capsizing in high winds. Ballast takes many forms such as “live ballast” or the weight of the crew, keels made of high-density materials like lead or iron, and water ballast. The most environmentally concerning ballast method is water ballast. 

Ships with water ballast pull water into the hull of the ship and store that water below the ship’s vertical center of gravity. Water ballast ships generally take in the water when starting their journey and dump the water ballast when they arrive at their destination. Ballast water discharge contains a variety of biological materials like sea-life, viruses, and microorganisms. While this might sound harmless, taking water from one region and dumping it in a different reign has some environmental impacts, as introducing non-native species to a new environment can ruin an ecosystem. 

To combat the negative environmental effects of water ballast, a new design for a ballast-free bulk carrier cargo ship has been developed. The new design allows for water to continuously pass through the ship meaning the water that enters the ship will exit the ship in the same region. This eliminates the environmental impacts of water ballast without compromising the safety and effectiveness of the ship.

Ship Design Updates

Many factors determine the efficiency of a ship and modern designs are pushing the boundaries to create optimal ship design.


Advanced modern propellers and streamlined rudder systems can reduce fuel usage by 4% while increasing the overall speed of the vessel. Some ships have added sail and kite propulsion systems in addition to traditional propulsion. Adding these green propulsion systems reduces fuel consumption, as the ship is no longer solely reliant on engine-powered propulsion. 

Ship Construction

Hull paint affects the frictional resistance of a ship and using anti-fouling paint, or paint that prevents the build-up of marine organisms can result in a ship using 3-8% less fuel. Traditionally, ship hulls are rounded, but that shape is not efficient at cutting through water. New ship designs are using optimized hull shapes to increase ship speed while reducing fuel usage.

These modern designs create a cushion of air beneath the hull to reduce friction, which ultimately saves fuel.

Ship Recycling

Most people think the shipping industry’s biggest contribution to pollution is fuel emissions, but ship disposal generates a significant amount of waste. Improper ship disposal has resulted in ship graveyards around the world where ships at the end of their life are sunk and abandoned. Recently, shipbreaking has become a more acceptable disposal method where ships are taken apart, but this process also has drawbacks. Shipbreaking has resulted in dangerous toxic materials, such as asbestos, being dumped in unused areas and some companies send their dead ships to third world countries before abandoning the ship for the locals to dismantle. 

Thankfully, green ship recycling has arrived. Reusable and valuable components of a ship, like steel, brass, and silver, are converted into materials to be used elsewhere. Light fittings, batteries, and generators can be pulled from a dead ship and reused on a new vessel or even on land. Dangerous materials are carefully isolated and removed with modern shipbreaking dry-docks successfully disposing of hazardous materials 99% of the time. Green ship recycling dry-docks also create more green jobs which furthers the environmentally friendly maritime movement.

The shipping industry is slowly adapting and becoming more environmentally friendly. New green technologies and designs allow the shipping industry to continue moving the world’s goods while reducing negative environmental impacts. 

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