Brian Ladin Explains the Benefits of Battery Powered And Petroleum-Powered Ships
Many assume that car transportation is among the most environmentally unfriendly component of human civilization. Brian Ladin of Delos Shipping explains that the truth is, today’s shipping vessels give off far more emissions. For example, one decent-sized cargo or cruise ship may give off as much CO2 as 70,000 cars. With the International Maritime Organization mandate to reduce sulfur content on ships by 7x the current average by next year (2020), companies are beginning to prepare new, greener energy sources such as batteries. But are these new methods equally effective with the environmental benefits? Brian Ladin explains the different benefits of petroleum and battery powered ships.
In the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century, most ships ran off coal. Compared to today, the air could be frightfully congested with coal ash from these coal-powered ships. However, coal power was greatly preferred over wind, as it had the power to move heavier ironclad vessels at any time. But coal posed problems of its own. Brian Ladin states that industrial shipping, passenger vessels, and large navies (such as Great Britain and the United States) frequently faced logistical difficulties supplying the necessary amount of bulky resources for ships that needed to remain long weeks at sea. Additionally, sizeable crews shoveled coal into engine boilers. The work was intensive and could not be done by a mere handful of men.
Thus, by the late 19th Century, the United States was already beginning to switch their ships from coal to petroleum. Petroleum was more efficient, released fewer toxins into the air, powered larger vessels, and was far easier to resupply to ships at sea. Petroleum has allowed shipping to remain one of the largest trading resources in the world, transporting approximately 80% of the world’s commodities.
However, Brian Ladin notes that even after the switch from coal to oil, petroleum-powered ships still released large amounts of environmentally dangerous emissions. And with the ever-increasing use of shipping both for luxury and transportation of commodities, countries are needing to look for alternatives to reach the targets set by the Paris Accords.
In order to accommodate new international regulations on emissions, ship designers and companies will need to take look towards to new power generation methods. It appears that the answer may lie in electricity.
Japan, for example, is set to launch their first emission-free, electric cargo ship by 2021. The ship will run off electricity stored in massive batteries. Other ship manufacturers are joining the fray for battery-powered vessels, including Kongsberg Gruppen ASA (Norway) and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc (England).
Because most ships already incorporate a decent amount of electricity, many ships may convert to a hybrid fuel systemin order to meet UN and IMO regulations in time. The current diesel-electric transmission system is already more efficient than other petroleum powered ships, but Brian Ladin points out that it is not quite good enough to meet new emissions regulations.
Ideally, ships convert to full electric drive in order to drastically reduce emissions. Many challenges still exist to make these batteries last and recharge as would be required to power today’s international trade and shipping needs.
Brian Ladin concludes that while battery-powered ships may be the way of the future, currently petroleum is the most efficient form of transportation and the change is not one that will happen overnight.