photo by Jim Rees
We've chronicled the movement to slow down our roadways to reduce carbon emissions. Some airlines have slowed down to save fuel, with the result of reducing GHG emissions per flight. Well, cargo shippers too are seeing the benefits of going slow.
The Guardian reports that, though nothing is firm, plans are being developed to regulate the speed at which cargo ships ply the waves. How this would be enforced is unclear. The plan would also call for more investment into fuel cell research for ships.
Carbon emissions from shipping as large as aviation
Though shipping uses less energy to move goods than planes or trucks, the global shipping industry is large enough that it accounts for 4.5% of global carbon emissions. The article quotes Martyn Williams of Friends of the Earth, "There's been a big focus on aviation because the plane is over your head and nobody really notices ships, but globally it's at least the same as aviation."
Dropping average speeds of 18-19 knots by two knots could result in 5% savings in fuel and emissions, the article reports.
From a historical perspective it is worth noting that clipper ships (the fastest merchant sailing vessels at the end of age of sail) could be expected to travel at 9 knots, while the fastest could reach 20 knots. Not bad for no carbon emissions at all.
They may now operate as cruise ships, but large clipper ships were state of the art in shipping 100 years ago—this ship reaching up to 17 knots on sail alone.