Cleaner seas and coastlines with green shipping

December 9, 2020
By The Explorer

Egil Ulvan Rederi's LNG-electric cargo ship.

Although shipping is the most efficient mode of cargo transport, maritime transport emits around 940 million metric tons of CO₂. This is roughly 2.5 per cent of total global emissions.

In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted an initial strategy to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions from shipping in half by 2050. It now has a timetable in place for implementing the strategy.

The Norwegian Government is even more ambitious, seeking to reduce the country’s emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 50 per cent and towards 55 per cent by 2030.

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ECOsubsea ship cleaning system.

Natalie Mariell Elholm

Giving industry a push

In order to facilitate a green revolution in shipping, the private and public sectors in Norway joined forces and established the Green Shipping Programme.

The programme has taken its cue from Silicon Valley and is launching pilot projects as early as possible. New solutions are implemented quickly and further developed from there in direct dialogue with customers.

Twenty large-scale pilot projects have been launched thus far. These include a hydrogen-powered speed boat, a bunkering vessel, and Altera Infrastructure Norway's dual-fuel e-shuttle tankers, as well as two projects to develop green ports.


Teekay's shuttle tankers will use their own emissions as fuel.

Unmanned ships and hybrid ferries

Another pilot project is the world’s first autonomous, fully electric container ship, Yara Birkeland. It is being built by the Norwegian fertiliser company Yara, with KONGSBERG delivering all key technologies. The vessel was handed over to Yara from the Norwegian shipyard Vard Brattvåg in November 2020 and is undergoing testing and preparations for autonomous operations.

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The Yara Birkeland autonomous emission-free container ship.

As for passenger transport, requirements for energy efficiency and emissions are now weighted in all public procurement tenders for ferries in Norway. Thanks to this, there will be a total of 70 all-electric and hybrid ferries in operation along the Norwegian coastline by 2021.

New requirements have been introduced for the cruise industry as well. All cruise ships and ferries in World Heritage fjords must be emission-free from 2026.

The rise in electric ferries also brings with it additional investments in battery and charging technology. Wärtsilä, for instance, has already developed a wireless instant charging system for electric ferries based on ground-breaking research from SINTEF Energy Research.

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Wärtsilä's wireless instant charging system for electric ferries.

New green fuels

Hydrogen is a promising green fuel, particularly for short sea shipping, as hydrogen fuel cells have no other emissions than heat and water. Two pilots under the Green Shipping Programme are exploring building a hydrogen ship and hydrogen infrastructure, respectively. The Norwegian company HYON is involved in both projects, and specialises in complete, tailor-made solutions for a broad range of vessels.

Electrified ports

Ports, too, have an important role to play in making shipping greener. When ships are docked, they often rely on polluting diesel generators for their power. Add to this the number of electric vessels that need charging, and the demand for port electrification is clear.

With Europe’s largest shore power facility, Port of Bergen in Western Norway has already made great strides in electrification. The port has also introduced a new environmental reporting tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from cruise ships moored in port.


Shore power installations at Port of Bergen.

Another initiative suggests giving larger container ships a slot time in ports, like they do for airplanes at airports. The Norwegian Centre of Expertise (NCE) Maritime CleanTech says this will reduce the number of ships waiting outside ports to unload and reload. Having a specific arrival time means ships can more easily plan their route and speed to achieve the lowest possible emissions.

These initiatives are only the beginning and their results can help other countries to reach the IMO’s target of 50 per cent emissions cuts. Policy, regulations and national targets are guiding Norway’s quest for green shipping, with the public and private sectors working closely together to find the best solutions.


STADT’s lean propulsion system cuts fuel consumption and resulting emissions.