The battle is on to reduce CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption over a short enough timescale to ensure that our children inherit a world in ecological equilibrium.
Within our industry, the International Maritime Organization has set the bar high: mandating an ambitious target of a 50% reduction in the key greenhouse gas emission by 2050, compared with 2008 levels.
This is not the only toxic gas that we are collectively seeking to reduce. Sulphur oxide emissions, too, must come down worldwide, and to this end regulators have decided the global fleet must from 2020 either use emissions abatement technology or run on cleaner fuel.
At Finnlines we began preparing for these challenges several years ago. To comply with even tighter emissions controls already in place in the Baltic and North Sea we kicked off a emission abatement system installation programme. The equipment has brought down SOx emissions by a factor of thirty, to negligible amounts.
These installations have continued at a steady rate to the point where today almost the entire Finnlines fleet – 20 of our 22 ships – now have emission abatement systems fitted. This means that ships trading outside the Baltic / North Sea low emissions areas: in, for example, the Bay of Biscay, already meet – and improve on – the 2020 requirement.
Maritime emission abatement systems were an emerging technology when we began to study them, but by the time we placed our orders we were confident of their utility.
Other shipowners thought differently. They held back on ordering, but now are rushing to place orders, creating a backlog that might cost them dearly.
As part of a parallel effort to reduce consumption across our fleet, we rebladed ten vessels between 2013 and 2015. Sailing at higher speeds is both inefficient and unnecessary on many trades. An appropriate propeller, delivering the necessary power but no more, has saved us fuel and reduced CO2 emissions on a tonne/kilometre basis.
Lengthening has had an equivalent, beneficial effect. We lengthened Finnlines vessels in two waves, the second of which should be completed by the end of 2018, bringing the total number of lengthened units to six. The tonne/kilometre consumption of these vessels has been reduced by 30%.
Looking to the future, we will from 2021 take delivery of three ice-class newbuilds. Their design and size mean they are among the most fuel-efficient on the market.
Those who attended the Grimaldi Group’s Euro-Med convention, which this year took place in Greece, will know that we are now planning a new series of ‘Superstar’ ro-pax vessels. In addition to the appropriate propellers, these ships will come pre-equipped with emission abatement systems and other advanced fuel consumption reduction systems.
In both linear-metre capacity and cabin numbers, the duo will be larger and more efficient than the tonnage they will replace. We are working with top Scandinavian engineers on designs that will meet both our demands and the expectations of our passengers. We hope to take delivery within three years of finalising the design.
With tropical storms now witnessed at latitudes previously unseen, the fight against climate change has taken on a dramatic urgency.
Reducing fuel consumption and emissions means we remain both competitive and firm in our commitment to play a role in this vital battle for our planet’s health.