New standards of green transformation, digitalization uplift maritime industry

In an interview with Maritime Fairtrade, Steve O’Malley, chairperson of the ISO/TC8/SC25 (Maritime GHG reduction) committee and outgoing Chair of ISO/TC8/SC11 (Intermodal and short sea shipping), explained the observations he has made of the transformation of the sector and the pivotal role Singapore plays in sculpting the shifting landscape. 

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) gathers global experts together to determine the optimal way of conducting businesses in all industries. 

How is digitalization aiding green transformation?

The maritime industry is primarily involved with the transportation of goods and people from one port to another. Each time this occurs, there are four data streams involved: financial data for invoicing/payment; operational data for the service providers to coordinate the movement of the goods or people from origin to destination; administrative data for various government agencies to regulate the movement of goods and people; and nautical data for safe navigation. 

Delays in any of these data streams can result in ships burning more fuel than necessary, ships going to anchorage instead of going directly to berth, loss of operational efficiency at port facilities, inefficient hinterland transportation, and late arrivals of people and goods at destination.  

The digitalization of these data streams and standardization of the terminology used provides the ships, port facilities, hinterland transporters, and government agencies with more timely and accurate information, which in turn allows them to plan their operations more efficiently. 

Ships receiving information that a berth will not be available on schedule can reduce their speed enroute to the port, which can reduce fuel consumption/emissions. Hinterland transporters receiving advanced notices of cargo availability can better use their fleets (i.e., increase the number of double moves) and this can reduce traffic congestion and emissions. 

This digitalization is often referred to as port community systems and one such project is the European Union’s Dynaport project. The Dynaport project has estimated that “up to 15 percent of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from shipping occur in port area, while a potential saving of around 20 percent of emissions at sea remains unleashed.”  

Similarly, the Rotterdam-Singapore Green Corridor and the U.S. Department of Transport ‘s Port Community Information System projects recognize that gains in efficiency will reduce GHG emissions from ships and from hinterland transportation. 

Much of the work described above has relied upon the ISO 28005 series of standards, designed to support the electronic port clearance of ships, cargo, and passengers. This series was developed by ISO/TC8/SC11 (Intermodal and short sea shipping), and it compiles data terms from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Compendium, provides requirements for constructing APIs used by system operators and is moving to just incorporate in time vessel operations and cargo track and trace terms. 

Advanced information and communication technologies (e.g., big data and processing, IoT, onboard sensors, artificial intelligence) are increasingly being deployed on ships which allow them to optimize vessel operations, voyage planning, and ship maintenance. All of these help the industry reduce fuel consumption/emissions, and ISO/TC8/SC26 (Smart shipping) has recently been established to focus on these issues.

It should be noted that there is no single driver pushing the digitalization in the maritime industry; rather, it is a consortium of stakeholders that have recognized the need. The IMO has rules requiring countries to establish a single window system for port clearance of ships. Ship operators and some large ports formed the Port Call Optimization Task Force to improve the efficiency of ship port of calls. The Digital Container Shipping Association has developed ships just in time, and cargo track and trace standards. 

ISO/TC8/SC11 has worked with all of them in the development of standards to ensure compatibility and interoperability. 

Emerging issues and new developments move fast: adoption of alternative fuels; legal clauses and obligations in shipping forms and contracts. What are the implications? 

There are three interrelated components that collectively will define the impacts on the maritime sector. These are regulatory policy, technological development, and rate of adoption of new technologies. While the direction of regulatory policy has been established, specific rules are still under development or are only applicable to the EU trade lanes. Much work has been done by major engine manufacturers, and today they are capable of providing engines that can burn alternate fuels or multiple types of fuels. 

Where there is still much work to be done is in scaling up the production of low, no carbon or carbon neutral fuels, and reducing their production costs. Adoption of new technologies and fuels is occurring, but the rate is slowed by regulatory uncertainty.  In the end, I believe that we will most likely end up with several fuels and other sources of power that will be used to serve specific maritime sectors.

With the possible exception of biodiesel, each of the alternative fuels that are being considered have their own unique characteristics which need to be managed safely.  For example, liquefied natural gas (LNG), which has gained market share as an alternate ship fuel, necessitated the development of about nine ISO standards developed by three different ISO Technical Committees (TC8, TC28, and TC67). These standards address specifications for the fuel, calculating GHG emissions, storage, system testing, steel, bunkering, and couplings. 

Additionally, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) produced approximately 37 unified interpretations needed to address LNG-specific issues. Each of these standards and unified interpretations built upon requirements or guidance contained in the IMO IGF Code.  

More recently, the IMO has issued guidance for the use of methanol as a ship’s fuel, and IACS and ISO are following suit. It should be noted that while fuel cells, alternative fuels, high-capacity batteries, hybrid systems, and other technologies that are called new by the maritime industry often have their roots in other industries, only their application in the maritime industry is new. 

While the marine environment does pose additional challenges that need to be addressed, we are still able to draw upon what has been learned elsewhere, so we are not starting from scratch when addressing new marine technologies.  

In regard to contract terms and forms, while compliance with ISO standards may be cited in contracts, ISO does not develop contracts. BIMCO (one of the world’s largest direct-membership organization for shipowners, charterers, shipbrokers and agents), however, does and they are an NGO representative at the IMO and a liaison organization with ISO TC8 (Ships and maritime technology). As a liaison organization within ISO, BIMCO can and has requested the development of specific standards that are needed by the industry. 

Why would there be business and legal opportunities from the commercial use of alternative fuels? 

What business opportunities would be created by regulations that cause ships to use alternative fuels is an interesting subject. There are, of course, opportunities associated with the production of these fuels; however, when looking at it from the perspective of the maritime industry and its service providers, four services are going to be needed and/or expanded. Those are GHG emission assessments, recording keeping, handling, and training.  

All the alternative fuels currently being widely discussed, such as methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen, can be produced using fossil fuels or they can be produced sustainably.  Only sustainably produced fuels will reduce net maritime GHG emissions. Fuel users will need to be able to document how the fuel was produced so that the appropriate default emission rate (when developed) can be applied. 

Additionally, in order to use emission rates below the set default values, a life cycle assessment will need to be conducted for the fuel’s production and use. Most likely, the fuel producers will be able to have emission assessments conducted on their part of the life cycle (from production to delivery to the port) and then the ships will need to have an assessment conducted for the maritime portion of the life cycle. These assessments will require the use of recognized and qualified auditors. 

I think there are already lessons being learned by the international aviation industry regarding the use of sustainably produced aviation fuel (SAF) that could be applied to the maritime industry.

Record keeping is also going to be very important, whether it is conducted by the vessel operators or conducted by service providers. It is not only the type and amount of fuel used which needs to be tracked, but also the source and corresponding emission rate of each fuel purchase made during the year. 

Lastly, many of the alternative fuels require a pilot fuel to be injected to stabilize ignition and the rate of injection often depends on the speed at which the engine is operating at that time. So, both the volume and when pilot fuels are used need to be tracked. 

There will be a need for bunkering vessels and facilities. In some cases, existing equipment can be modified to handle some of the alternative fuels, while in other cases, the equipment must be specifically designed for a specific fuel.

Training cannot be overlooked. Mariners are often posted to different ships over fairly short spans of time; so, it is highly likely that they will need to be familiar with their duties associated with different fuels as they move from ship to ship. 

How can companies gain a competitive edge?

Gaining a competitive edge as the maritime industry switches to using alternative fuels, whether you are involved with bunkering the fuels or are a fleet manager, is probably going to be based on your ability to identify the parameters under which your customers or your ships operate and select for use or choose to supply the most appropriate fuel or fuels. Regardless of which fuel or fuels are chosen, their cost will probably be higher than the fuels they are replacing.

When identifying the parameters of your fleet’s operation or those of your customers, you will need to consider if the vessels are operating in a closed cycle (operating within a single port or between a set of specific ports) or if they are deployed regionally or internationally as needed. Are the vessels required to make rapid changes in engine output while underway? What is their normal voyage duration and design speed? Will the vessels be new builds – existing – or converted, and how long will the vessels be operated before they are sold or scrapped? 

With this type of information, you can factor in the costs of the fuels that are or could be available in the markets you operate and make better business decisions.  

How has Singapore been developing national standards in maritime domain, which can contribute to ISO standards in the future?

The Singapore Standards Council (SSC) is a valued and participating member of the ISO Technical Committee on Ships and Maritime Technology, and it successfully used its SS 648 as the basis for the development of ISO 21562, Bunker Fuel Mass Flow Meters on Receiving Vessel, on a project led by an expert from SSC. 

Furthermore, Lawrence Ong, deputy director (International; Maritime decarbonization), Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, will be conducting a presentation at the ISO/TC8/SC25 (Maritime GHG reduction) meeting being held at World Maritime University from 18 to 20 June. The presentation will outline, from a policy maker’s perspective, where standards will be needed by the industry to meet GHG emission reduction targets. 

In all, there will be four policy presentations – from the IMO, the EC, the U.S., and Singapore – and they will be used in an analysis of what standards need to be developed within ISO and elsewhere. To use a boxing term, Singapore swings above its weight in influencing the maritime industry.  

Photo credit: iStock/ ipopba

The best maritime news and insights delivered to you.

subscribe maritime fairtrade

Here's what you can expect from us:

  • Event offers and discounts
  • News & key insights of the maritime industry
  • Expert analysis and opinions on corruption and more