There’s a Whale in the Boat

Aka an oceanic version of the ‘elephant in the room’

So, let’s talk about the “whale in the boat”: Decarbonising boats, and ships. By my estimate there are at least 35 million boats and ships powered by fossil fuel in the world, mostly diesel, but only the 250,000 largest ships are usually included in the dataset that are used to quote “Maritime produces 3% of global Green House Gas emissions”. That’s quite a lot missing.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set guidelines for decarbonisation of 70% by 2050. Consequently, almost nothing is happening, I guess it’s a long way off. However in a report by the UK’s Carbon Change Committee, “…total UK shipping emissions increased by 0.2% from 2017 to 14.3 MtCO2e/year in 2018” is a shocking state of affairs and despite a drop during Covid, the problem is expected to return to pre-covid levels. I have found little evidence of any refits of existing vessels to reduce their CO2 output in the UK, although to be fair I have heard several are steaming slightly slower and new lower emission vessels are being built. But unlike the automotive industry, maritime cannot rely on a regular turnover of vessels as even now they are being built for an expected life of 20-30 years.

I get it. It’s a really difficult problem to solve. Flipping out a diesel engine for a battery or battery and H2 fuel cell is really difficult, requiring substantial redesign of the internal layout to accommodate the larger H2 fuel tank a complete change in the maintenance plan, and consideration of weight distribution for the heavy battery(s). Imagine the problem this way: As a car owner and driver, you have been asked to decarbonise your car yourself (lets pretend you have a petrol one), there are very few experts available, garages and mechanics do not have the expertise, even if they had the components, which they don’t. And if you are clever enough to install a battery and fuel cell, there is unlikely to be any fuel available, if you are very luck in the UK, maybe there are one or two charging points. This is why I and a team of technologists and naval architects are working on it, and why we need people to help us at Ocean Prime.

We need every marine research person, scientist, professor, fisherman, scuba diver, boat and ship owner and their crew and operators who uses a boat powered by fossil fuel to work with us to solve the problem.

Secondly, we need a much bigger team of IT experts; web full-stack, data scientists, A.I. experts, cloud and IoT people and equipment to help build a platform. As a Startup, we are boot strapping at the moment, so no paid roles, but it is fun, international, and not too heavy a burden if we share it out. Its better if you understand the ocean and boats, but dedicated land-siders are really welcome too.

Thirdly, if you have a product that helps reduce the CO2 emission of any boat, however small the reduction (or boat), please get in touch. If you build boats that are reduced or zero emission DM me Dave Sampson.

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