Cleaner engines and spinning sails propel emissions reductions in big ships

A major overhaul of ship propulsion is underway to make global shipping cleaner and more energy-efficient.

By redesigning ship engines to accommodate different fuels, or by doing away with fuel altogether, engineers are hoping to slash the billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that is estimated to be released currently by the maritime transport industry.

‘Shipping accounts for about 2.5 % of global greenhouse gas emissions,’ said Professor Nikolaos Kyrtatos, a marine engineer at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. ‘We’re looking at every aspect of marine engines to make them cleaner, more efficient and more reliable.’

Prof. Kyrtatos is the coordinator of HERCULES-2, an EU-backed project that has brought together Europe’s two major engine manufacturing groups, MAN Diesel & Turbo and Wärtsilä, which hold 90 % of the world market.

Such manufacturers would not have considered working together in the 1990s, but after a downturn in the marine engine industry in the early 2000s, along with the tightening of emission standards, the two companies decided to cooperate on research and development. […]

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