It’s one of the world’s busiest container shipping lanes — a flow of ships packed with furniture, automobiles, clothing and other goods that cross the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles and Shanghai.
If plans succeed, this corridor will be a showcase for cutting planet-warming carbon emissions, which account for 3 percent of the world’s total. That’s less than cars, trucks, trains or aviation, but still a lot – and growing.
The International Maritime Organization, which regulates merchant shipping, wants to halve greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century and wants deeper cuts this year. IMO Secretary-General Kitak Lim said in February that “shipping must accept rising carbon.”
The agency’s targets require significant changes to shipping and infrastructure. It is encouraging plans for “green transport corridors” along major routes where new technologies and methods can be fast-tracked and added.
More than 20 of these partnerships have been proposed. They are currently mostly on paper but are expected to take shape in the coming years. The goal: to unite marine oil producers, ship owners and operators, cargo owners and ports in a common effort.
Los Angeles and Shanghai established their partnership last year.
“The vision is to leave a container factory with zero emissions by truck (in China),” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.
“It arrives at the port of Shanghai, is loaded onto a ship with zero-emissions cargo control equipment, and moves across the Pacific Ocean on a zero-carbon ship. Once it reaches Los Angeles, the opposite happens,” Carbon-Free Handling and Distribution.
Los Angeles entered into a second agreement with Long Beach and Singapore in April. Other works include Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River; Chile Network; And many corridors in Asia, North America and Europe.
C40 Cities, a global coalition of mayors for climate action, supports green corridors as “tools that turn aspirations into action, bringing together the entire shipping value chain,” said Deputy Director Alyssa Crains.
But Crain’s sounded a note of caution: “I can’t help but wonder how much of it is PR and how much of it is actually practiced.” It requires a cultural shift in thinking about how we get things from point A to point B.
New approaches built in green corridors can bring faster results, said John Bradshaw, technical director for environment and safety at the World Shipping Council. “I am confident that the industry will achieve zero emissions by 2050.”
From tea to tennis shoes, things in your pantry and closet will spend time on a cruise.
Approximately 90% of goods sold move on water, some of which are longer than four football fields, each containing thousands of consumer products. About 58,000 commercial vessels ply the sea.
Although noxious fumes from ships cause complaints in port communities, their emissions are less visible than those from offshore passengers such as trucks.
According to the European time, maritime trade is expected to triple by 2050, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Research predicts that the industry’s share of greenhouse gas emissions may reach 15 percent.
However, in the year The 2015 Paris climate agreement exempts shipping, as ships operate around the world, while the agreement covers nation-by-nation targets.
“No one wants to take responsibility,” said Alison Brown of Pacific Area, an advocacy group. “A ship may be flagged in China, but who owns the emissions when a ship transports goods to the US?”
The IMO has responded to increasing pressure to reduce emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2018. An update slated for July could include targets in the US, Europe and smaller islands. The opponents include Brazil, China and India.
The Biden administration wants a zero-emissions goal, a State Department official told The Associated Press.
But less than half of the largest shipping companies have committed to meeting global carbon targets. And there is no consensus on how to accomplish them.
As the EU did last year, the proposals range from cooling the fleet to paying for emissions.
Lee Kindberg, head of environment and sustainability at Maersk North America, part of AP Moller-Maersk, which has more than 700, said: “Decarbonising global shipping is difficult…. Ships. “It’s a stretch, but we think it’s possible.”
Mechanical sails. Batteries. Low or zero-carbon liquid fuel.
They are among the propulsion methods touted as a replacement for the “bunker fuel” that powers most commercial ships – the thick residue from oil refineries. It emits greenhouse gases and pollutants that threaten human health: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, soot.
Finding options for green transport corridors will be a priority.
Currently, liquid natural gas is the preferred choice. Globally, 923 out of 1,349 commercial ships do not run on conventional fuel, according to a survey last year by DNV, a Norwegian maritime accreditation society. Ships with batteries or hybrid systems are a close second.
Many environmentalists oppose LNG because it emits methane, another potent greenhouse gas. Advocates say it’s the fastest and most cost-effective alternative to bunker fuel.
Of the 1,046 alternative energy vessels on order, 534 are LNG powered and 417 are battery hybrids, according to DNV. Another thirty-five use methanol, which analysts see as an up-and-coming cleaner alternative.
Moller-Maersk plans to put 12 cargo ships into operation next year with “green methanol” that uses products from renewable sources such as plant waste.
The company It is collaborating on research that could lead to ammonia or hydrogen-powered ships by the mid-2030s.
“This is the first step in converting our fleet into something more climate-friendly,” Kindberg said.
NorsePower offers a new twist on an old technology: wind.
A Finnish company has developed “rotor sails” – composite cylinders about 33 yards (30 m) tall that are mounted on the deck and rotated by the wind. The difference in air pressure on opposite sides of the working equipment helps to push the ship forward.
An independent analysis found that rotor sails installed on Maersk oil tankers in 2018 produced 8.2% fuel savings in one year. Other factors such as wind conditions, ship type and other factors save between 5% and 25%, says Norspower CEO Thomas Riski.
Thirteen ships are using the equipment or have ordered it, Riski said.
“Mechanical sails have an important role in transporting carbonation,” he said. “You can’t do it alone, but you can make a big contribution.”
Fleetzero argues that electric fleets are well-suited to decarbonizing the industry. The company was founded two years ago in Alabama to make battery packs that power cargo ships.
CEO Steven Henderson said he envisions smaller, more efficient ships rather than larger container ships. They would call on ports with newly charged batteries and switch to low ones. The Fleetzero prototype ship will begin delivering cargo later this year.
Who goes first?
Before building or buying low-emission fleets, companies want assurances that clean fuels will be available and affordable.
And the companies that produce the oil need enough ships to guarantee a strong market.
And both require port infrastructure to accommodate new-generation ships, such as electric docking and clean fuel distribution systems.
But ports expect demand to justify such expensive upgrades. Converting offshore cargo handling equipment and trucks to zero-emission models could cost the Port of Los Angeles $20 billion, officials said.
“Once you put a (green) corridor on the map, you’re at least moving in one direction,” said Jason Anderson, senior program director at the nonprofit ClimateWorks Foundation.
Jing Sun, a professor of marine engineering at Michigan State University, said the success was due to government oversight and corridor funding, along with support from shipping industry customers.
“Overall, shipping is the most cost-effective way to move things,” Sun said.
Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Ships has committed to using only zero emission shipping companies by 2040. Among the 19 signatories are Amazon, Michelin and Target.
“The rest of the chain has the confidence to make the necessary investments when large corporate buyers come together and say, ‘We want this to happen,'” said Ingrid Irigoyen, assistant director of the Aspen Institute, which helped assemble the group.
Follow John Flesher on Twitter: @JohnFlesher
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