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Marine Emissions and Compliance

It has been estimated that there is in excess of circa 53,000 vessels internationally trading in the global merchant shipping fleet, with less than 20% of that number contributing more than 70% of the total fleet tonnage.

Global fleet

Source: Lloyd's Register Fairplay July 2009 (other sources cite vessel numbers of at least 70,000 in the global fleet, however this includes smaller craft e.g. fishing vessels, yachts of under 400 gross tons) European Maritime Safety Agency

The fleet is made up of various vessel types:
  • Container ships, which handle a huge variety of goods, typically on scheduled liner services
  • Tankers carrying crude oil, refined oil products and other liquid cargoes, including gas and chemicals
  • Bulk carriers of commodities such as coal, ore or grain
  • Passenger vessels including cruise ships, liners and ferries
  • Vehicle carriers, other than ferries
  • General cargo and multi-purpose vessels; ships that carry a variety of cargoes - either uncontainerised or containerised or both
  • Other types of specialist ships e.g. offshore support and anchor handlers, tugs and research vessels
All of these ships will have diesel engines of one sort or another, even the very small number of vessels that have turbine driven power plant.

Virtually all ships use liquid fossil fuels as the main energy source. Fuel grades range from distillate to residual. Distillate 'gas oil' is clear in appearance, contains little sulphur and is of low viscosity so needs no heating for combustion. Residual 'heavy fuel oil' is black in appearance, contains on average 2.7% sulphur and needs heating to over 120¢ªC for combustion.

Residual fuel is a low value by-product of the refining process and it appears unlikely that refiners will invest in large-scale desulphurisation to provide the industry with the low sulphur fuel it needs. All indications at the current time suggest that it will continue to be the main fuel outside of Emission Control Areas for the foreseeable future. LNG (liquid natural gas) is however being seen as an important potential alternative to conventional liquid fuels, particularly for vessels operating exclusively in an Emission Control Area. All SOx emissions are eliminated and NOx and CO2 emissions are reduced by about 80% and 20% respectively. There is however little or no supply infrastructure currently in place and onboard storage presents challenges in that space requirements are significantly higher than for distillate.
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