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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sailing the ocean green

URI to host two-day workshop to promote ways to make ships, ports greener

URI Graduate School of Oceanography’s Research Vessel Endeavor
underway on Narragansett Bay. 
Photo by Nora Lewis.
NARRAGANSETT, R.I– Landlubbers are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, but what about seafaring souls? 

Making ships and ports green is gaining momentum throughout the world thanks, in part, to efforts by the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

For the second time since the first Green Boats Workshop was held at Duke University in 2012, GSO, the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR) and 11th Hour Racing will bring together shipbuilders, marine architects, agency and port representatives, ocean scientists and owners of commercial and research vessels to brainstorm about ways to make boats and ports more environmentally friendly.

The Green Boats and Ports III workshop on April 5 and 6 at the Narragansett Bay Campus is a high priority of GSO Dean Bruce Corliss, a leader in promoting discussion about making marine research and transportation industries more sustainable.

“Greening of the fleet and our port operations and infrastructure are important to the long-term sustainability of our oceans, protection of the environment, and ultimately the competitiveness of our ports in the global market,” said Corliss. “This workshop offers a tremendous venue to share lessons learned, best practices and challenges across the maritime research and industry sectors, and it serves to motivate continued innovation, research and application.”

Among the workshop speakers are the Honorable Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy for the Environment, Energy and Installations; Gregory Marshall, chief executive officer of Gregory C. Marshall Naval Architect, Ltd; and Rear Adm. Bruce Baffer, U.S. Coast Guard assistant commandant for engineering and logistics.

The topics to be covered include considerations for the application of hybrid propulsion systems, fuel cell technology, energy management, coatings and bottom paints, waste management, biofuels, sustainable ship design and sustainable seaports.

URI chatted with Corliss recently about the sustainability of ships, boats and ports, and GSO’s local efforts to make its research vessel, Endeavor, green.

How did this all start? 

The first Green Boat workshop was held at Duke University in 2012 in conjunction with UNOLS, NSF and ONR in response to the push within the science community to start looking at initiatives and improvements to make the research vessel fleet green. It has expanded over the years to broaden the discussion to include recreational boats, ports, cruise lines and the private yacht industry.

Why is it so important for ships to go green? 

According to the International Maritime Organization’s 2012 report on “International Shipping Facts and Figures: Information Resources on Trade, Safety, Security, Environment,” approximately 90 percent of global trade is carried by sea – by ships. This statistic illustrates the significant volume of marine traffic transiting the world’s oceans to sustain the global economy. As such, the ocean and atmosphere are exposed to emissions, pollutants and operational practices that emanate from ships. To ensure a sustainable ocean, we need to look at green ships and ports.

What do “black particles’’ and large quantities of nitrogen oxides (NOX) and sulphur oxides (SOX) do to the environment? 

In the context of the theme of this workshop, some of the key pollutants from ships include particulate, NOX and SOX emissions that are harmful to the environment and humans. They can create health problems and/or contribute to the decay of the coastal and ocean ecosystems. 

What are some of the technologies ships are using to become green? 

The application of green technologies varies for the specific ship/boat sectors (commercial, private/yacht, recreational, etc.). In some smaller recreational boating and even large yacht applications we are seeing increasing use of solar, battery, biofuels as well as traditional wind for power and propulsion needs. In larger ship applications, we are seeing increasing use of biofuels, environmentally friendly bottom paints and stronger waste management plans to help minimize environmental impacts. 

The shipping industry emits about twice the emissions of carbon dioxide as aviation. Airlines have come under fire, but the shipping industry has largely escaped criticism. Why? 

The shipping industry has actually been subject to very stringent air emission and pollution prevention regulations for many years. However, I think that because shipping is not as visible day-to-day, the attention to what has been transpiring in this industry goes largely unrecognized. What you are seeing now is simply a concerted focus on the greening of ships and ports to continue to advance the identification and adoption of environmentally friendly practices within the industry.

Who do you see as the greatest proponents of green initiatives in fleets or at ports? Is the government doing anything to help advance green initiatives? 

It varies, but I am happy to say that many of the greatest proponents will be attending the workshop on April 5 and 6, so we are looking forward to hearing from many of them. I think it is fair to say that the government is helping facilitate the advancement of green initiatives. We see this based on the funding we have received to hold a workshop like this to facilitate the collaboration between practitioners to identify best practices, lessons learned and new innovative technologies. Additionally, both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard are leading by example and will be primary in the discussions where we will learn about their efforts to green their bases and ships around the nation. 

People seem to be willing to pay more for greener food and products. Do you think customers will soon be demanding greener shipping companies? 

I think we are seeing people start to demand that the companies they chose to do business with are taking steps to be environmentally friendly. This is a natural way for the public or customers to make a broader contribution and help demonstrate their commitment to ocean sustainability.

The URI research vessel Endeavor was the first U.S. research ship to use refined biodiesel. That’s quite an honor. Are you setting an example for the world? 

That sentiment is perhaps a bit strong, although I do appreciate it. We are proud to say that we are finding ways to retrofit or modify operations on the Endeavor to put into practice the things that make sense environmentally, operationally and economically. However, through workshops like this we are anticipating that we’ll identify additional opportunities to make improvements on the Endeavor and the rest of the research fleet.

The two-day workshop is $100 and includes refreshments and lunch, as well as a reception and buffet dinner on April 5. Click here for details about the workshop and the registration form. For more information, contact Annette DeSilva at 401-874-6827.