As CIMAC’s triennial congress nears, the International Council of Combustion Engines is putting itself – and engine technologies – at the heart of shipping’s efforts to reduce emissions
Beware unintended consequences. That is the message from the International Council of Combustion Engines (CIMAC) as it views short-term measures for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. At IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in May, measures under discussion included ship-specific efficiency targets, engine limiters and speed limits – and CIMAC and its members have clear views on which should be deployed.
The idea of ship speed limits – in the form of mandatory, annually-calculated average speed limits – has received backing from more than 100 shipowners. But according to CIMAC and several other notable industry bodies (among them the proponents of alternative short-term measures) such a move would not incentivise technical progress and the switch to new technologies that is needed to meet further climate goals.
In a statement issued ahead of the May meeting of the MEPC and IMO’s intersessional working group on greenhouse gas emissions, CIMAC said: “Such short-term measures must be part of a larger toolbox. They must be specifically focused on the least efficient ships, and part of a range of solutions that shipowners may choose from.”
In fact, argues CIMAC secretary general Peter Müller-Baum, power limitation may be a much more efficient way to quickly reduce emissions. “De-rating the engine offers the possibility of lowering the vessel’s maximum speed and thereby optimising the actual load point with the design load point. Such a measure, based on a power limitation on the vessel, would inherently provide a speed advantage for the best performer.”
The measure for speed limiters was among those suggested by a submission from Japan to MEPC74. In its submission the country noted that while the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) covers newbuild ships, there was no such measure for existing ships. As there will still be several older ships not covered by the EEDI operating in 2030, by which time IMO is aiming to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, Japan suggests focusing short-term energy efficiency efforts on these ships.
“Only through cross-sector cooperation and an increased focus on research into carbon-neutral technologies will shipping stand a chance of reaching the IMO 2050 target”
Last year Germany proposed a concept of limiting shaft or engine power, along with a safety power reserve. Maximum engine power can be easily limited to the optimum level by changing the fuel index seal setting on the existing engine controlling system, without retrofitting a system. Japan supports this idea; as the authors of the Japanese submission explain:
“By installing a simple mechanical fuel index sealing system limiting the maximum engine power to the optimum level, the ship cannot be operated above the optimum level of power except for emergency situations. Unlike the operational speed, the engine power is easy to monitor, control and verify. Controlling engine power is also enforceable under survey and certification.”
CIMAC agrees that short-term measures need to focus on efficiency improvements and take account of existing or nearly market-ready technical solutions, citing LNG retrofits and system optimisation as two current options. But it notes that research and development of new solutions will be critical to meeting IMO’s emission targets for 2050 and beyond.
“If new technologies can be developed and brought onto the market in time, there is a good chance that market mechanisms will enable the fulfilment of the IMO targets,” says Mr Müller-Baum, referencing the fact that any innovation would need to be made affordable enough to make a difference.
Among the promising technical solutions are battery-driven ships and fuel cells, although these are so far unable to cover the propulsion of sea-going container vessels. Hydrogen and carbon-neutral fuels could be considered but are a long way from being competitive, says Mr Müller-Baum. Other ideas include innovative ship design as well as broader digitalisation.
“Only through cross-sector cooperation and an increased focus on research into carbon-neutral technologies will shipping stand a chance of reaching the IMO 2050 target. Consequently, there is a need for a consensus on finely focussed research and development activities with well-defined aims that avoid dilution of effort by pursuing several directions at once and so wasting valuable resources. Support from regulatory bodies is key and this means research funding,” says Mr Müller-Baum.
Funding of research into new technologies is high on the agenda at IMO. The initial greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy text itself notes that the organisation “is requested to assess periodically the provision of financial and technological resources and capacity-building to implement the strategy”. And last year, member states agreed on the need to establish a voluntary, multi-donor trust fund to sustain these activities.
“[The sulphur cap] is a large-scale experiment with different types of fuels and fuel-blends, and the response of our engines to this diverse new offering remains to be seen”
But first and foremost, CIMAC believes that a clear and stable global legal framework is needed which does not predetermine any specific technical direction.
“Only a rule-making that is seen to be technologically-neutral has a chance of attracting the necessary investments worldwide,” Mr Müller-Baum notes.
The necessary developments require co-operation between all ship owners, shipbuilders, engine manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, system integrators and classification societies. The global engine-builder community will discuss all these questions at CIMAC World Congress on 10 – 14 June 2019 in Vancouver.
The event will feature four streams covering 11 broad topics, all of which bring in the themes of emissions reduction – for example electrification and hybridisation as well as emission reduction technologies. Another topic focuses entirely on low-carbon combustion and alternative fuels.
There will also be two dedicated sets of presentations on the impending 2020 sulphur cap, one on technical solutions and the other offering feedback from engine users on technologies. It is a sign of the mounting environmental and technical challenges facing shipping that this dramatic and rapidly approaching change is not the sole focus of CIMAC World Congress.
“A limit of 0.5% sulphur in fuel represents about 75% of global demand for marine fuels which would mean a huge undertaking for the bunkering/shipping industry and a significant impact on refineries,” says MAN Energy Solutions head of marine and offshore sales Kjeld Aabo, who also acts as chairman of CIMAC’s fuels working group. “It’s a large-scale experiment with different types of fuels and fuel-blends, and the response of our engines to this diverse new offering remains to be seen. Our industry is banking on fruitful discussions at the CIMAC Congress in order to gain an overview of the available alternatives.”
CIMAC Congress meets only once every three years. With IMO set to establish its detailed greenhouse gas emissions strategy before 2023, this year’s event in Vancouver will be critical for ensuring that solutions emerge to shipping’s environmental challenges.