Shipping needs true, transparent and timely vessel emissions data

The industry’s ability to comply with pollution and climate change goals demands a new, technology-driven approach, writes Peter Georgiopoulos.


Carbon pricing, emissions trading, EEXI, CII, The Poseidon Principles, Getting to Zero and The Sea Cargo Charter. Regulators are coming for shipping and this time they are bringing the banks, charterers and civil society along with them.


In just a couple of years, carbon pricing will be applied to shipping emissions in Europe and at the same time the EEXI and CII will enter into force. All three will bring new levels of scrutiny to monitoring performance and reducing emissions.


And while the industry continues to talk excitedly of new fuels, the fact remains fossil fuels will make up the lion’s share for some years to come, so let’s not forget IMO2020 is still a big issue for national and international operators.


This acceleration in the tempo of emissions monitoring for compliance with regulations and market measures has demonstrated an inconvenient truth. Quantifying and collecting actual voyage and fuel consumption data is not something the industry has much experience with.


Both the IMO and the EU data collection programs collect annual vessel emission data retroactively so you can see what a ship did last year but not last week. While this is aimed at forming legislation going forward and offering good historical data on shipping’s carbon footprint, in order to make meaningful carbon changes we need real time data.


And that data needs to be accurate and not estimated or a year old. While we realize that to enable all market participants the initial bar has to be set low, but whether you are a charterer, owner or operator, we all need a solid regulatory platform and real data in order to make informed decisions that actually arrest climate change.


The question is this. How do we deploy devices in the real world that can offer our charterers and other industry players meaningful actual vessel specific real-time data and how do we do this quickly?


We live in a world where technology can provide us with real time updates on all sorts of data to our smart phones – so why not shipping? There are experts in academia, cloud computing, engineering, the defence chemical sensing space and the engineering research and development sector that are working on these problems – so how do we bring it into our industry?


It’s the difference between artificial intelligence and ‘actual intelligence’. That’s what we have to bridge to in order to help shipowners understand their emissions in a way that makes sense to them.


A couple of years ago we realized that in order to make dynamic decisions regarding a vessel’s emission of sulfur and GHGs, we needed real time actual emissions data from vessels. And we discovered we were not alone in this, because all our commercial and governmental stakeholders wanted this data too.


This meant real time, hourly sampling of a marine asset’s main engine CO2 emissions as well as confirmation of fuel switches when entering and exiting ECA zones. It had to be global; allowing interested parties to constantly receive snapshots of their assets’ CO2 emissions 24/7, 365 days a year. 


We didn’t want estimates based on fancy algorithms or equivalents based on other people’s estimated emission factors – but physical, vessel-specific emissions data – what was actually coming out the stack.


We believe that armed with the correct tools – we can better serve our charterers and the planet. It’s for this reason we have invested in technology start-up SeaArctos; to simply and cost effectively demonstrate that an owner is not only embracing new environmental regulations, they are able to confidently demonstrate their compliance to all their stakeholders from class and flag, banking and insurance to Port State control and Coast Guard.


Understanding the exposure that will come from regulations and carbon pricing can help companies prepare and understand the steps they need to take. It demands totally new solutions to get this real time vessel-specific data out of the stack and into the hands of the people that need it.


While new fuel regulations and GHG emissions reduction targets are literally a matter of life or death, it appears that little thought or budget has been given to their implications. To achieve compliance with emission regulations and fuel switches using a top‐down centralized solution is a tremendously time-consuming and expensive undertaking.


This responsibility, while mandated by the IMO and EU falls to individual countries (often with limited budgets) to enforce and independent owners to demonstrate. Doing nothing is not an option; utilizing a ground breaking point‐of‐use, bottom‐up technology response to ensure fuel switch compliance and deliver emissions data to stakeholders is a real world solution.


Peter Georgiopoulos is Chairman of tanker owner United Overseas Group