Environmental Technology, News, Pleasure Boats & Marine Equipment

New methodologies for greener shipping

“As global trade grows, so does transport by sea,” Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, Sylvia Brustad told the Intercessional Working Group on Greenhouse Gases in Oslo. “More traffic on the seas means more risk of accidents and more emissions...

According to the Deputy Managing Director at Ulstein International, Dr. Per Olaf Brett, the average usage of vessels around the world is only around 50-60%, with many ships spending too much time in port and running in ballast. “Of course, a full and frequently used ship will produce more emissions, but in the overall context in which we work, more transport would be achieved with fewer vessels, which means fewer overall emissions for more transport work carried out on a yearly basis. The same can be said of steadily using somewhat larger vessels than those we replace. Simply put, the larger the vessel, the more transport you can do without increasing fuel consumption, relatively speaking,” he says.

Both the EU and the Norwegian Government have recognized this fact, and are supporting an increase in short-sea shipping, so that thousands of lorries can be eliminated from the roads. Considering the net result, some inevitable nominal increases in emissions from shipping are therefore in fact “desirable.”

“Generally speaking, if you are talking about emission reducing gadgets – that is, mechanisms that you can install onboard the ships – these tend to have a relatively small overall real effect on emissions,” Dr. Brett explains. By looking at the bigger picture, the Norwegian maritime industry can ally the constant hunt for new environmental friendliness-promoting innovations with a more holistic or systemic approach to cutting emissions. This plays a part in offering more rational and effective maritime transportation in a global environmental context – ensuring that the ships are sailing more of the time with cargo rather than sitting in ports or at offshore.

A New Emissions Indexing System

The Ulstein Group has funded a major project, also involving DNV Research & Innovation AS, which covers all three of the major detrimental gases emitted by ships – NOx, CO2 and SOx. An emissions index – more advanced and robust than that which is recommended by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – is essentially a new methodology for the indexing of all types of new buildings.

Dr. Brett explains that the index is developed such that real emissions are estimated in terms of tonnes per vessel on a yearly basis, in order to allow ship-owners to evaluate the configuration of vessels and the emission reducing technology worth investing in. The overall emission performance of the different system combinations in the vessel designs can be simulated and are eventually scored on a scale of one to seven, with seven being extremely good with respect to being “green”, and one being poor.


An example of the scale use by Ulstein in the Ulstein Emission Indexing System, where 1 represents poor performance and 7 excellence. Using the scale allows ship-owners to determine the effects of different configurations in relation to emissions.
Image: Ulstein International AS/The Ulstein Group.


The index will first be applied on new buildings and then gradually introduced to existing vessels. Market forces will play their role when it comes to the introduction and use of this index in the market. The index is not hard to understand and that is why it is such a powerful decision making support tool. The impact in real terms of changing everything from engine arrangement to different types of fuel can be scored automatically. A vital part of the emission indexing and making a positive differentiation effect for the owner is the index benchmarking possibility. Results from the Ulstein new buildings can be plotted against a certain sample of relevant existing vessels in operation and their emission performance thus compared with peers.

“For the next two or three years, the focus of the Ulstein environmental friendliness efforts will be on emissions,” says Brett. “But after that, a system covering all kinds of other environmental factors will be developed and expanded upon, including for example ballast water treatment and preparedness for safe scrapping, for example credit given for using non-toxic paint. Eventually, the result will be a Total Performance Index for ships.” Ulstein will continue exploring these opportunities with DNV Research & Innovation AS.

The Ulstein Group’s emission indexing system (UGEIS), and the long-term goal to produce an overall environmental index, is a significant boost to the maritime industries, not only in Norway, but also across the world. “This is the context into which we have launched our greener shipping efforts,” says Dr. Brett. “Having a better system available for making meaningful emission measurements and their comparison with peers can assist ship-owners in evaluating their current arrangements and achieving credits for their efforts in the market.”

“Focus first on what can be done on land before converting each individual ship. There are at least 120,000 of them,” says Brett. The reduction of sulphur in fuel at the refinery stage is generally more rational than installing large and expensive equipment onboard ship. Although it is feasible to redesign vessels to support emission reducing equipment, other mitigation measures should come first.

Greener Seas – Efficient Ship Designs Produce Top-class Results

When it comes to ship design, Norway is again leading the way. An impressive range of innovations and industry ‘firsts’ have led to awards for ships including Ulstein’s SX121 Island Constructor, which received the prestigious “Ship Of The Year” award from the Offshore Support Journal (OSJ) at the SMM exhibition in Hamburg. Håvard Stave, the Design Manager of Ulstein Design AS proudly lists some of the green features of the SX121 and other Ulstein ships – the use of marine diesel, rather than heavy fuel, cuts down on sulphur emissions, a double hull which, in accordance with DNV’s Clean Design requirements helps to reduce spillages, and the well-documented advantages of the Ulstein X-BOW® design, which helps vessels achieve higher transit speeds in head seas, resulting in greater fuel efficiency as well as limiting noise and vibration levels.


The “Island Constructor” is an SX121 design, and a winner of the prestigious “Ship Of The Year” award from the Offshore Support Journal (OSJ) at the SMM exhibition in Hamburg. This ship was delivered in June 2008 to Island Offshore.
© The Ulstein Group


The SX121 also includes a special bridge layout aimed at reducing collisions, environmentally accepted painting standards for reduced maintenance, and a sophisticated power management system that ensures engines run at their optimal load balance for lower fuel consumption. The SX121 also boasts extra accommodation space at the front of the vessel compared to the overall length and price of the ship, which in turn provides a better cargo area and generally more capacity.

“The whole philosophy is to make ships as safe and logistically efficient as possible. Implicitly, this will also lead to environmental efficiency,” says Stave. “We are continually hunting for new innovations and we try to explore and use as many as we can.” Examples include Mecmar’s exhaust system, which releases exhaust just over the water surface on the hull side. Salt water is sprayed into the exhaust to cool it so that it falls onto sea water, also reducing some of the emissions. Removal of conventional vertical funnel systems often running through the wheel house improves the view from the navigators’ bridge, thereby increasing safety, which is also an implicit environment issue.

Furthermore, the unveiling of the MODEX™ (Movable Deck Extender) at the recent ONS exhibition in Stavanger, which was developed in together with Evomec, also demonstrates the importance of overall efficiency – specifically, in this instance, cargo storage – in the context of short-sea shipping. Running along the ship’s cargo rails, the moveable deck provides crucial extra storage space for lighter units. “This solution makes the vessel a more energy-efficient transport machine,” says Stave.

“At Ulstein, environmentally friendly methodology development, systems and equipment advances go hand in hand to place the industry group at the forefront of assisting greener shipping,” concludes Dr. Brett. The wider context – increased short-sea shipping, more efficient usage of the existing world fleet and the limitation of detrimental emissions – is one that the Norwegian maritime cluster is working diligently to address. The benefits, starting with Norwegian companies such as the Ulstein Group, are benefits for the whole world.


The PX105 is set to be delivered to Remøy Shipping in 2011. It will be built at Ulstein Verft AS, and is just one example of Ulstein’s environmentally-conscious ship designs.
© The Ulstein Group