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Going Green in the Shipping Industry: The Rise of Electric Ships and New Eco Technology Efforts

Going Green in the Shipping Industry: The Rise of Electric Ships and New Eco Technology Efforts

Green shipping technology is rapidly taking over the industry, with the integration of innovative ideas such as electric ships with solar sails, green propulsion and advanced fuel optimisation systems. As of 2023, shipping remains one of the least environmentally damaging kinds of commercial transport and only contributes fractionally to marine pollution compared to other human activities. Rising trends in the shipping industry involve raising awareness and a proactive approach to improving eco-friendliness and becoming more IMO compliant.

Here are some of the many ways that green shipping technology is being integrated into the industry:

A Note on Co2 Emissions

The shipping industry contributes a relatively small amount to the total volume of emissions affecting the atmosphere when compared to road vehicles and other forms of transport. However, there is always room for improvement, and green shipping technology offers just that. Some of the most intriguing, innovative designs, such as electric ships and solar sails, are emerging to combat the industry’s contribution to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) sets a minimum energy efficiency standard for new ships. New vessels must meet certain energy thresholds concerning their type and must comply with carbon reduction levels set out in the index. As a result, there is pressure on the shipping industry to adapt, and this is leading to many new pollution solutions and large-scale adoption of green shipping technology.

Significant improvements are being made through green shipping technology, addressing factors such as engine efficiency, hull design and fuel types to lessen polluting factors. VLSFO, or very low sulfur fuel oil, is more compliant with the standards of IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and is actively being implemented across the board. Those who opt not to use eco-friendlier fuels are required to use exhaust gas purifiers to limit the destruction caused by emissions.

The high standards of the IMO have made waves in the shipping industry, and it is rapidly becoming more environmentally friendly, adopting green shipping technology by regulation.

Dealing with Ballast Water

Ballast water is fresh or saltwater that is held in the ballast tanks, or cargo holds of ships, intended to keep the ship stable and easily manoeuvrable during a voyage where there is an absence of cargo. Ballast water provides more weight and, therefore, stability, ensuring that the ship is low enough to pass safely under bridges and through other structures.

Various organisms and pathogens can be found in ballast water. This includes various non-native organisms, such as bioinvaders which can unintentionally be transported from their place of origin and dispensed at a different port, where they may have a negative effect on the ecosystem and marine biodiversity. This makes ballast water another target for the green shipping technology initiative.

The new era of electric ships or future ships has the task of trying to curve or significantly decrease the negative impacts of ballast water on the ocean ecosystem.

The IMO is introducing several regulations to reduce the impact of the industry on the ocean and the atmosphere, and these regulations extend to ballast water as well. To comply with regulations, ships must use approved ballast water management systems or follow other approved procedures:

D-1 Standard

  • Standard D-1 concerns ballast water exchange, which must occur in open ocean waters at least 200 nm from shore.
  • D-1 has been mandatory since the 8th of September 2018
  • D-1 exchange emerges from the principle that organisms and pathogens taken on board from the coast will not survive being discharged into deeper ocean waters due to the difference in temperature and chemical composition. This means that organisms and pathogens that could have a negative effect on the environment they have been exposed to are killed and neutralised naturally, having no negative effect on the biome.

D-2 Standard

  • Standard D-2 specifies the number of organisms allowed to be discharged in ballast water and requires the use of water treatment systems to remove or kill organisms present 
  • After the D-1 policy review on the 8th of September 2019, all vessels are required to meet the D-2 standard with an approved Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) in place
  • All new vessels are required to be equipped with a suitable BWMS on delivery

The implementation of the D-1 and D-2 ballast management requirements is helping the environment by reducing the spread of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens. Both systems are designed to reduce the introduction of non-indigenous species to new ecosystems and conserve biodiversity.


The concept of ballast-free ships is in development, as well as electric ships which may not require a ballast system at all, although designs have yet to be implemented. One of the most intriguing proposals is a system that allows the constant flow of water through a network of trunks running from the bow to the stern so that no water or organisms are displaced.

Ballast-free ships are a green shipping technology that could significantly contribute to conserving biodiversity and reducing our environmental impact.

The Rise of Low-Carbon Fuels

Switching to low-carbon fuels, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), biofuels, and hydrogen,
is an important strategy for reducing GHG emissions in the shipping industry. While there are challenges associated with each fuel option, their potential to significantly reduce emissions makes them an attractive option for a greener future.

  • Liquified Natural Gas or LNG fuel is said to be the future fuel for the shipping industry, reducing air pollution from ships and ensuring efficient engine performance.This kind of fuel is gaining popularity as a cleaner alternative to traditional fossil fuels. It is also easier and safer to transport and store than other fuel forms. In fact, the use of LNG as a fuel is expected to increase significantly in the coming years as more ships are built or retrofitted to use this cleaner fuel.
  • Biofuels, which are made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats, are another low-carbon fuel option for the shipping industry. These fuels emit significantly fewer GHGs than traditional fossil fuels, and they can be used in existing engines with little to no modifications.However, the production of biofuels can have other environmental impacts, such as land use change and deforestation, so their sustainability needs to be carefully evaluated.
  • Hydrogen is another promising low-carbon fuel option for the shipping industry. When used in fuel cells, hydrogen produces electricity to power ships, emitting only water as a byproduct.However, the production and transportation of hydrogen can be expensive and energy-intensive, which makes it less competitive compared to other low-carbon fuel options.

Notable Green Shipping Technology Solutions in Shipping

There are various unique green shipping technology innovations that address critical pollution issues worth noting. Here are some of the innovative solutions taking the shipping industry by storm:

Optimised Cooling Systems

These green shipping technology cooling systems have been optimised to be more efficient, reducing the amount of energy required to cool the engine and other components of the vessel. This results in lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions, making them more environmentally friendly. Optimised cooling systems also help to meet the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Improved Hull Paints

Improved hull paints are coatings that can be applied to a ship’s hull to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency, making them a great example of green shipping technology. They are typically designed to be more environmentally friendly than traditional hull paints, as they contain fewer harmful chemicals.

Air Bubble Hull Lubrication

Air bubble hull lubrication involves releasing small air bubbles along a ship’s hull to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency. This green shipping technology can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15%.

Fuel Optimisation

Fuel optimisation involves using advanced software and sensors to optimise fuel consumption in real-time, reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

Exhaust Scrubbers

Exhaust scrubbers are systems that remove harmful pollutants from exhaust emissions. They are designed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions and other pollutants from ships, helping to meet IMO requirements for reducing emissions in sensitive areas.

Advanced Rudders and Propellers

Advanced rudders and propellers are a green shipping technology designed to reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency. They are typically designed to be more environmentally friendly than traditional rudders and propellers. One example is improved speed nozzle technology which optimises water flow around the propeller.

Green Propulsion

Green propulsion technologies include electric, hybrid, and alternative fuel engines that are designed to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency. These technologies are typically more environmentally friendly than traditional diesel engines. 

It is crucial for the shipping industry to combat pollution by adopting green shipping technology, such as electric ships with solar sails, green propulsion, and advanced fuel optimisation systems. Despite being one of the least environmentally damaging forms of commercial transport, shipping still contributes fractionally to marine pollution compared to other human activities. Therefore, it is encouraging to see a rising trend in the industry towards heightened awareness and a proactive approach to becoming more eco-friendly and complying with the IMO standards. 

Needless to say, these numerous well-considered advancements in green shipping technology are a step in the right direction and reflect positively on the values of the shipping industry.

Green Shipping Technology Solutions for Your Company

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Solverminds is a leading global technology company providing enterprise resource management solutions, consulting and data analytics services to a maritime industry where business meets the technology. 

We offer ERP solutions, optimisers and consultations for your company’s unique needs. Contact us for a quality assessment of your systems and innovative solutions to challenges. Learn more about going green today, and ensure that your company consistently meets the requirements set out by the IMO while streamlining operations and optimising profit margins.