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Sustainability in Shipping: How the IMO DCS is Encouraging Companies to Go Greener

In March 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) put into effect a Data Collection System (DCS) that gives shipping companies a better understanding of where their fuel consumption is, with the goal of finding ways to reduce it. Together with the EU MRV and Clean Cargo Working Group, the IMO DCS has prompted a large advance for sustainability within shipping. Not only do shipping companies know the importance of going green, but they also know that businesses (in need of shipping services) will give preferential treatment to those shippers that can prove a lower carbon footprint, in order to meet their own sustainability initiatives.

While similar to the EU MRV and Clean Cargo Working Group, the latter two collect and publicize all emissions data, while the IMO is used completely internally. The EU MRV focuses on creating transparency in the industry by providing data on who’s acting sustainably and who’s not. Ultimately, it puts pressure on and encourages companies to improve. Similarly, the Clean Cargo Working Group is a regulation targeting container ships, where companies can rate themselves amongst others to see who has smallest carbon footprint. The results of this data can mean the difference between who gets contracts and who doesn’t.

reduce co2 in shipping graph

How Weather Routing Factors In

In 2007, the IMO did a study which showed that weather routing can save between 2-4% of fuel costs. Likewise, utilizing a Just-in-Time (ETA service) can save an additional 3-5%. With all this in mind, it’s easy to see just how importance it is for shipping companies to have the best weather routing and data collection systems on board to ensure that routes are optimized and emissions data is monitored and improved upon year-round.

TC Probablity OBrien

Here, BVS shows a 10% probability that the Tropical Cyclone track will pass within 125 miles from the purple dot and a 50% probability it will pass within 125 miles from the yellow dot.

One of the most popular tools to do this is the BVS Route Optimization, which identifies more time and fuel-efficient routes as well as optimizes arrival times to reduce fuel spent in port. Used together with FleetDSS Emissions, which measures and reports on actual fuel consumption, companies can not only saves costs, but maintain regulatory compliance and improve their sustainability “reputation.” 

Utilizing Sensor Data for Improved Performance

Taking this one step further, the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, or SEEMP, now demands that you not only show your current emissions data, but also provide ways in which you plan to improve. Using FleetDSS Performance or Analytics, sensor data can be aggregated and analyzed to give companies insight into what they need to do to become more efficient. This sensor data typically includes detailed information on engine performance and is uploaded every minute without the need for human interpretation (and thus, human error).

As an example, a shipping company in Singapore was monitoring the performance of their vessels using FleetDSS Analytics. They identified that in the time leading up to dry docking (completing maintenance and repairs), their vessels were performing significantly worse than expected, specifically in terms of fuel consumption. They determined that by dry docking more often, the cost savings in fuel and performance far outweighed the increased costs of dry docking more frequently.

Sustainability: Are we there yet?

In my opinion, the biggest benefit of these regulations is that they are forcing shipping companies to be more introspective. They have to understand not only the efficiency of their fleet, but also the impact their business is having on the environment. These are very welcome advances in an industry that has had a relatively poor reputation within sustainability in the past. While vast improvements must still be made, enhancements in technology, like the use of autonomous ships or wind and solar energy aboard cruise liners, may continue to push us in the right direction.