‘No Such Thing as a Zero Emission Vessel’

Anders Orgard

The commitment to reach zero emissions may just have gotten a bit more complicated lest the rest of the world were to follow Denmark’s example. There, guidelines from the Danish Consumer Ombudsman states that claims to be emission-free and climate neutral must be fully documented and verified by experts for a product’s life cycle. If not, a company may face stiff fines.

“There is no such thing as a zero-emission ship,” Anders Ørgård, chief commercial officer for OSK-ShipTech, a Danish naval architectural firm, told Cruise Industry News. While some ships are implementing alternative fuels and ferries transition to battery propulsion, thus reducing the “direct” emission footprint from propulsion, he said the “indirect” emission footprint from the construction of a ship becomes proportionally larger.

Ørgård said that shipowners must focus both on the direct and indirect emissions.

He noted that a recent study conducted by OSK-ShipTech revealed that for a full-electric ferry, non-operational CO2 emissions could reach well in excess of 55 percent of the total CO2 emissions produced during the vessel’s 20-year lifecycle.

“Rather than exclusively focusing on emissions from operations, shipowners should do a cradle-to-grave life cycle analysis,” Ørgård said. In the future, when the fleet eventually may consist of zero direct emission ships sail, the indirect emissions should be the focus, he added.

The study was conducted after some controversy surrounding the concept of sustainability in Denmark and new guidelines from the Danish Consumer Ombudsman requiring that statements like “emission-free” and “climate neutral” have to be fully documented and verified by third-party experts. Otherwise, fines could go into the millions of euros, Ørgård noted. In fact, the Consumer Ombudsman was recently awarded a larger budget in order to hire more staff to follow up on sustainability claims – or so-called “green washing.”

The study cited focused on the life cycle of a 2021-built electric ferry from mining the raw materials and producing the steel to the recycling of the ship.

For redundancy, the electric ferry is also equipped with diesel engines, but runs 90 to 95 percent of the time on electricity. The study included the use of diesel fuel plus calculations of the emissions from producing the electric power shoreside to charge the batteries, including the building of wind turbines, as well as a typical mix of conventional fuels available on the grid across Europe.

“Doing a life cycle analysis from the concept stage, allows us to develop a build strategy, calculating the total cost of ownership and the total CO2 burden,” Ørgård said. The firm’s CO2 calculations cover construction, steel work and outfitting. Furnishings could represent up to 10 percent of the emissions.

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