Lynchpin of a Sustainable Economy

Why Shipping Ticks Green Boxes

By Stefan Kjellström

Historically, the cost difference between renewable energy and fossil fuel has been too high to gain support for a green shift across the energy sector. But with new and innovative technology we are seeing a big change.

The latest example from the U.S. shows that renewable energy is a more cost-efficient alternative than coal, which essentially means that the cost of building new solar and wind plants is lower than running existing coal-fired power plants. Naturally, technical development will continue, and this will further strengthen the case for renewable resources.

All around the globe huge wind parks and solar energy farms are being built. China and India are at the forefront, competing to have the world’s largest renewable power plants. A good example is Kamuthi; a single location plant in India which powers more than 150,000 homes. The Gansu wind farm in China targets capacity of a staggering 20 gigawatts by 2020, and in Europe there are plans for offshore wind farms with combined capacity of 100 gigawatts.

These developments in combination with new innovations and technical developments mean that it is only natural that some of the necessary equipment to serve these project cargoes are growing in size. Turbines are moving towards 1,000 tonnes and huge solar panels are too big for transportation in containers. This is forcing manufacturers and engineers to think in new ways, with dismantled transportation being one option.

Further, this technologically superior and more sensitive equipment needs to be carefully handled and the number of lifts should be limited in order to reduce the risk of damages. Taking these factors into consideration, there are interesting logistics challenges ahead that will require deep logistical experience, global reach with local support, as well as tailored equipment to ensure efficient and secure transportation.

As more industries turn their focus to sustainable technology, they must also take into account responsible transportation, making the whole project as sustainable as possible. It is a well-known fact that world trade and maritime transportation are fundamental to sustaining economic growth. What is less recognized is that maritime transportation will be indispensable in maintaining a sustainable global economy as it is the most environmentally sound mode of mass transport, both in terms of energy efficiency and the prevention of pollution.

Within the shipping industry, responsible shipping lines should always strive to continuously minimize their environmental footprint through innovative technology and sophisticated engineering. Vessel design should mirror this and strive for less impact. With digital transformation as the fourth industrial revolution, big data is being used to track and control vessel performance which should lead to a decreased CO2 footprint.

Renewable energy is necessary for a sustainable future, and hopefully green partnerships will be formed between cargo owners and transportation providers to make this happen.  

Stefan Kjellström is vice president for breakbulk and pricing at Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

Image credit: Wallenius Wilhelmsen