May 24.2022

How Can IoT Address the Massive Carbon Footprint of Maritime Shipping?

How Can IoT Address the Massive Carbon Footprint of Maritime Shipping?

Global freight is a significant carbon emitter. With IoT, the industry can make progress in reducing emissions and contribute positively to climate action.

Maritime shipping is a worrying cause of pollution, global warming, and climate change. Every ship requires massive amounts of energy to move goods from one end of a maritime route to the other. This energy is generated by burning tons of bunker fuel, the thick sludge that remains after the typical petroleum refining process, and must be heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit just to gain enough flow to be pumped.

Besides carbon, bunker fuel comprises several other compounds, including sulfur, nitrogen, and aromatics, making its combustion emissions significantly more polluting than other fuels. Therefore, it is not surprising that the shipping sector emits around 940 tonnes of greenhouse gasses annually, 2.5% of the world's total emissions.

The United Nations' International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a target to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. This ambitious goal requires the development of new technologies and innovative approaches to shipping operations.

Fortunately, the industry has significant untapped potential to reduce emissions. IoT-driven solutions can deliver fuel savings and sustainability benefits far outweighing the investments required to implement them.

Read on for four ways the Internet of Things can make global freight more sustainable. 

1. Automated slow steaming

Most logistics operations focus on moving goods as fast as possible. However, while timely delivery is also a priority in maritime shipping, companies, especially those operating in weak freight markets, must balance the cost of fuel with the cost of delays to maximize revenue.

For this reason, slow steaming, the deliberate slowing down of a vessel at specific times and route points, has become widely adopted as a strategy for reducing fuel consumption. Besides managing costs, slow steaming reduces a ship's overall greenhouse gas emissions. Studies show that slowing down the global fleet by 10% would translate to an overall emission drop of around 13%. However, slow steaming has traditionally been a manual process. The captain and crew must keep track of weather conditions, prevailing winds, currents, and the vessel's position relative to optimal slow steaming routes. Consequently, errors are frequent, resulting in lower efficiency levels than expected.

IoT systems can automate this process by continuously collecting and analyzing data about the vessel's surroundings and route. This data can be relayed to the ship's controls to adjust speed automatically, optimize fuel consumption, and minimize emissions.

2. Predictive maintenance

Ships are typically subject to extensive wear and tear. For example, engines must operate for hours in often harsh conditions, while waves and saltwater constantly bombard hulls. Hulls also suffer from fouling, the build-up of marine life, algae, and other materials on the ship's surface that increases drag. Even minor drops in performance can have a significant impact on fuel efficiency. For example, experts estimate that a vessel whose hull is underperforming by 10% uses 25-30% more fuel than one with optimized hull performance.

Therefore, it is essential to carry out regular maintenance checks and deploy timely countermeasures to maintain the highest efficiency possible. Hull cleaning, one of the most effective preventive maintenance measures, improves performance by as much as 8% if done well and at the right time.

Tracking maintenance manually often results in tasks being delayed or forgotten. With IoT, vessel maintenance crews can track all relevant metrics in real-time and chart maintenance schedules to achieve optimum performance levels. For instance, feedback from hull-mounted sensors can automatically trigger hull cleaning operations when performance starts to degrade.

3. Smart cargo handling

Cargo handling is the most critical aspect of maritime shipping, but it is also highly resource-intensive. An estimated 11 billion tons of cargo are transported by sea every year, most of it in containers.

Containerized cargo typically arrives at ports in trucks or train cars before being transferred to cranes that load it onto ships. Once onboard, the containers are arranged in the ship's hold according to weight, size, and other constraints. The process is repeated in reverse when the vessel reaches its destination port.

Container handling is the primary source of pollution in port cities. The vehicles and machinery involved release massive amounts of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

IoT-enabled smart cargo handling systems can automate and optimize many of the tasks involved in loading and unloading ships. For example, sensors can help track the location of every container in the port, along with its weight, contents, and destination. Port operators can then analyze this data to develop the most efficient way to retrieve and load the containers.

Similarly, onboard sensors can keep track of the position of each container in the hold and improve unloading efficiency at the destination port.

4. Connected logistics

Global maritime shipping is a complex system involving thousands of ships, ports, and other players. This system must operate in real-time to ensure that ships arrive at their destinations on schedule. A delay of even a few hours can cause severe disruptions in upstream and downstream operations, resulting in considerable efficiency losses.

IoT can play a crucial role in connecting the various players and systems in maritime shipping. For example, tracking vessel locations in real-time can help port operators plan ahead of their arrival and ensure efficient turnarounds. Shippers can also use IoT data to track their cargo throughout the shipping process and make timely schedule adjustments when needed.

Furthermore, data from ship sensors can be analyzed to generate real-time insights about traffic conditions, weather, and other factors that might impact the ship's journey. With this information, port operators, cargo handlers, and other stakeholders can make better decisions and optimize their operations.

Let's make maritime shipping climate-friendly with IoT

As you have learned, IoT has immense potential to help maritime shipping improve fuel efficiency and reduce its climate impact. By automating slow steaming, monitoring performance, automating cargo handling, and connecting logistics, IoT can make commendable contributions to reducing the carbon footprint of global freight networks.

If you are involved in maritime shipping, you owe it to the entire planet to explore how technology can help you make your operations more sustainable. Create your free IoT2Market account today and see what the IoT market has to offer.

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