Home Economy Great Lakes fleets thrown overboard by marine emissions standards

Great Lakes fleets thrown overboard by marine emissions standards

by SuperiorInvest

The new rules ignore the realities of inland shipping and leave the industry to develop alternative strategies

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Despite efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Canada’s lakers—ships that transport cargo in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and the Arctic and East Coasts—find themselves in an environmental and predicament.

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That’s because the International Maritime Organization, the UN agency responsible for regulating shipping, has paid little attention to the needs of inland and coastal shipping when it comes to new decarbonization rules, focusing instead on global ocean trade.

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As a result, most lakes will struggle to meet the new IMO standards, the first of which came into force on 1 November.

“If we calculated our existing fleet without taking into account our future emission reduction targets, we would probably get a ‘D’ or ‘E’ (the lowest rating) in the IMO Carbon Intensity Index,” said Nathalie Sykora, CSL Group’s Chief Global Operating Officer Inc. headquartered in Montreal, the parent company of Canada Steamship Lines, a major freight operator in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway with a fleet of 17 ships.

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But that’s an undeserved rap.

While transportation industry accounts for about 30 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, with road, rail and air transportation accounting for the bulk. The marine industry represents only two percent and the lake industry only 0.59 percent.

This is largely due to the foresight of shipping companies such as CSL and St. Catharine’s, Ont.-based Algoma Central Corporation, which has invested more than $2 billion in fleet renewal and renovation over the past decade. Their new green boats are equipped with the latest emission-reducing and fuel-efficient engines technology and hull design, anti-spill double hulls and state-of-the-art cargo handling systems.

The marine industry accounts for only two percent and lakes only 0.59 percent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.
The marine industry accounts for only two percent and lakes only 0.59 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Photo by Paul Dionne/CSL Group Inc.

Perhaps just as important, especially in coastal areas and the Arctic, is the development of digital equipment and processes aimed at improving outdated data information systems on marine conditions that contribute to inefficient routes, wasted time and unnecessary fuel consumption. Not so long ago, sea conditions only carried large, expensive, sparsely placed buoys, and rarely if not broken.

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Coastal intelligence company MarineLabs Data Systems Inc. based in Victoria has found a way to do it better. The company now provides the world’s highest resolution wind, wave and weather data in real time, as well as AI-driven insights from fleets of small cloud-connected marine sensor units, all aimed at optimizing vessel and port operations and available via subscription.

“Having real-time weather conditions at hand affects how much a ship needs to use its engines and how it optimizes its routes to save fuel,” said Dr. Scott Beattie, Founder and CEO of MarineLabs.

The result of all this, according to Research and Traffic Group, a transportation consultancy based in Kingston, is that Canada’s flagship fleet can carry an average of one tonne of cargo 360 kilometers on one liter of fuel. Rail’s greenhouse gas emissions would be 31 percent higher for the same load over the same distance, while trucks would emit 558 percent more.

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So, what is the problem IMO?

“The profile of the lakes, which are special ships, does not correlate with the ocean ships,” Sýkora said.

It turns out that one of the best ways to achieve energy efficiency is to make bigger ships.

“But that’s not an option for lakers who have a number of operational constraints,” said Matt Heider, chief executive of New York-based Nautilus Labs Inc., which provides artificial intelligence solutions to improve the efficiency of ocean navigation, among other things. of things, calculating the most efficient speeds and routes.

One of the best ways to achieve energy efficiency is to make bigger ships.
One of the best ways to achieve energy efficiency is to make bigger ships. Photo by Paul Dionne/CSL Group Inc.

Because of the limited distances and fewer route options available to them, lakers don’t have the same opportunities for these types of efficiencies.

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For example, the IMO’s key carbon intensity rating links greenhouse gas emissions from vessels to the amount of cargo carried and the distance traveled by the vessel. The heavier the load and the greater the distance, the more favorable the effect on the ship’s rating. Lakers, compared to ocean liners, make shorter trips—one to seven days for CSLs—and tend to be smaller and lighter, so much so that a vessel longer than 740 feet cannot make the Seaway. Lakers also spend significantly more time in fuel-intensive maneuvering mode.

So far, the IMO’s perspective has been short-sighted when it comes to lakes.

“The IMO is looking at the long-haul drivers, the people on the 401 (highway),” said Bruce Burrows, president and CEO of the Ottawa Chamber of Marine Commerce, a non-profit association that represents maritime industry stakeholders across Canada and the U.S. “We’re the drivers, so to speak cities that go from port to port to port with smaller ships that need to fit in locks and operate in different water conditions and temperatures. This is our reality and we should not be penalized for it.”

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Carleen Lyden Walker, co-founder and executive director of the Connecticut-based North American Marine Conservation Association, agrees.

“IMO is not moving nearly as fast as the industry would like,” she said.

Keeping the sector healthy isn’t just a matter of nostalgia – it plays a significant role in Canada economyBurrows said.

“The Great Lakes alone generate about $60 billion in activity and 338,000 jobs are at stake,” he said.

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Fortunately, IMO is not the only environmental policeman on the water.

“Individual nations can create their own rules regarding domestic trade, rules that may not adhere to the letter of the IMO rules,” Sýkora said. “So the industry is working with the federal authorities to create a framework for energy efficiency that really works for us.”

Included in this framework is a proposal by CMC and other stakeholders such as Ports and Waterways that the federal government establish a green transportation corridor in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region as part of inland shipping efforts to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.

The corridor would focus on a combination of energy-efficient ships, alternative fuels and other infrastructure improvements to accelerate the decarbonisation process.


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