Navigating Green Shipping Corridors

You may have heard about “green corridors” in shipping but be asking yourself, what are they? What is their purpose?

Recognizing the need for climate action, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adapted a new strategy in 2023 to incorporate a net-zero emissions goal for all vessels by or around 2050. With a lifetime of 20–30 years for a vessel built today, it is important to start thinking now how to reach these goals. 2050 is not that far away!

“Green shipping corridors” – specific routes where green shipping with zero emissions is supported between major harbors – have been suggested as one way to move toward the IMO targets.

Encouraging zero emissions

Green shipping corridors will encourage and support shipowners and cargo owners who select green shipping and, at the same time, discourage or penalize those that continue to pollute. These corridors will not only benefit deep sea container shipping but also feeder vessels and chemical and LPG short sea tankers as they go from huge port hubs to smaller ports nearby. This would contribute to zero emissions in both global and regional shipping – and pave the way for a greener future for our children and grandchildren.

McKinsey has collaborated with the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping to create a blueprint to help stakeholders assess the feasibility of green corridor projects. They have looked at 3 different alternatives:

  1. Single-point harbor or port hubs that allow round-trip zero emission bunkering
  2. Point-to-point transport corridors between two harbors with zero emission bunkering at both ends
  3. Network corridors between three or more harbors that all support zero emission bunkering

One corridor being suggested for deep sea shipping is from Asia to Europe for container vessels. According to McKinsey, approximately 24 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) were traded on this route on 365 vessels in 2019. The ships burned approximately 11 million metric tons of fuel, accounting for roughly 3 percent of global shipping emissions – more than any other global trading route. Reducing emissions by container vessels is a clear target.

Moving forward

For the immediate future, we need to look at single-port solutions. Ports will have to decide if they will gamble on one energy source or go for all known solutions: hydrogen, biogas, ammonia and others.

The Port of Rotterdam is a forerunner in this area, having developed an extremely interesting concept that includes:

  • Development of green power and a bigger electric grid
  • Development of plants for producing and transporting hydrogen
  • Transport and bunkering of any green fuel
  • Transport and storage of CO2
  • Shore-based power for docked vessels
  • Transport of residual heat for commercial and residential use

For the immediate future, we need to look at single-port solutions. Point-to-point and network solutions are more challenging to achieve. Both of these require different governments and ports to agree on the green corridor and then on what type of fuel to use and how to bunker. In the long term, the major ports of the world need to agree on the goals. If a vessel needs green ammonia to be able to run on zero emissions, then it must be available in the ports. Communication, discussion and action are all needed, but action is essential, as the clock is ticking.

Consumer influences

Consumers are having a bigger impact on the decisions and choices than we may be aware of. The new vessel BYD Explorer No. 1 – built to transport electric cars and leased to BYD as the first in a fleet of greener car carriers – is an example of retail stores taking a strong role to make sure their goods areshipped in a greener way.

Green corridors will be a “bragging” tool for retail shops and will give consumers the opportunity to choose environmentally friendly transportation for products that may not be locally produced in Europe.

The smaller carriers that take these cars and containers from huge green ports to smaller cities like Oslo and Helsinki can also benefit from green bunkering opportunities available in the big ports.

Building vessels ready for change

Vessels ordered today will last well past the 2050 target date. They must be ready for green corridors. But how can you build a vessel that is ready before ports are ready? And what is the point of building zero bunkering ports if the vessels are not ready? At the very least, it’s clear that vessels built today must be prepared for change. Shipowners are already talking with us about finding good solutions that can be used in green corridors.

Our shaft generators and propulsion motors are high in efficiency, enabling a vessel to run as either PTO or PTI and making a vessel prepared for the operational changes needed for any available future energy source.

And the greenest energy is the energy that you don’t use! The Switch has a long track record of connecting new electrical sources and energy storage on a vessel to make sure emissions and fuel consumption are reduced and transport is as green as possible.

The Switch DC-Hubs are ready for all loads and electric energy sources, whether the selection is ammonia, hydrogen or something else. The Switch DC-Hub, in combination with batteries, perfectly supports vessels toward zero emissions in 2050 and even sooner. The Switch also has an impressive history of delivering shaft generators to both deep sea container vessels and feeder vessels, and we are ready for more.

The Switch believes the combination of the DC-Hub, batteries, fuel cells, energy-efficientpropulsion or a 2-stroke engine with a shaft generator is something with clear benefits, especially in green corridors and for feeder ships. This combination is a solution that will far exceed the response and efficiency of the solutions that have been an industry standard for too long.

Feel free to get in touch to discuss this in more depth. We are always working with shipowners, ship designers and system integrators to find solutions that can be used both now and in the future.

Senior Manager, Marine Concepts

Asbjørn Halsebakke

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Asbjørn Halsebakke is leading his team in engineering marine drive solutions, frequency converters and rotating machinery, which are in use today with the utmost reliability on vessels throughout the world. Before joining The Switch, Halsebakke worked for Aker Kværner Elektro AS in Norway to develop frequency drives and perform sea trials and commissioning. Halsebakke graduated from Narvik University College with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. He also attended the University of Bergen, where he studied elementary physics and mathematics.