Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:33:00 +0100


Last week the Danish Energy Association announced onshore wind was the lowest cost form of electricity generation in the country. The Energy Minister said this was due to commitment and professionalism across a community of researchers, industries and politicians.

Denmark was an early adopter, committed to wind power since the 1970s. The government has taken a strong leadership position in overcoming the community resistance that has tended to complicate and delay wind development in other countries. In 2008 the Danish government introduced a programme of new requirements which enabled the public to be compensated for any losses experienced and rewarded for participation in new developments. For example, if a house loses value after a wind turbine goes up nearby, the operator compensates the owner. At least 20 per cent of the shares for any project must be offered to local residents, giving them a direct stake in the project and a keenness to support its success. To reduce the imposition of new power lines, most of the cables are being laid underground. This is an expensive solution but one that was deemed necessary to accelerate the uptake of renewable power.

The result - rapid roll-out of onshore wind, lower electricity costs, improved energy security, emission reductions.

Denmark has benefited from falling technology costs and high levels of investment in clean energy. As a result it hosts a number of the major market leaders in manufacture of onshore windpower infrastructure including Vestas and Siemens. The country also benefits from a large wind turbine supply chain.

The parallels for the maritime sector are clear - positive stimuli and clear commitment stimulate faster uptake and wider community benefits, this results in lower costs, higher returns, improved economic resilience and emission reduction. The nation, the global body, the industrial-research alliances that drive the opportunities associated with renewables in the maritime sector can expect to see attractive financial rewards.

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:57:00 +0100


ECAs (emission control areas) are stimulating debate in the shipping industry about how, most cost effectively, to respond. Arguments are polarising around scrubbers or LNG. The latter has a significant number of advocates and for good reason - it is lower in sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter and comes at a more competitive price than marine gas oil (MGO), the alternative for vessels operating in ECAs.

LNG, however, is a far from perfect fuel from a greenhouse gas perspective. Methane slip, where partially combusted gas escapes into the atmosphere, is a very significant issue. LNG is a potent greenhouse gas - about two orders of magnitude as powerful as CO2 and this offsets many of its advantages. Significant efforts are being made in the industry to reduce methane slip, and to talk down the impact, the argument being that methane slip from the marine sector is significantly less than from other activities such as agriculture, mining and ‘natural seepage’. This rather evocatively unpleasant term relates to methane produced from food waste, sewerage and manure. This source of methane presents an opportunity.

Through a process of anaerobic digestion these unpleasant sources of energy can be converted into Liquid Bio-methane, bio-gas, and, after cleaning, this is the same as LNG. Bio-gas can be spiked into any LNG grid that evolves in response to maritime bunker demand and through a process of back-to-back certification ship operators can demonstrate they are operating on renewable fuels - which may prove to be lucrative as we move into a fossil-fuel depleted future.

Since bio-gas depends on waste as a feedstock it does not reduce land available for agriculture and so avoids the food/fuel debate whilst making good use of methane producing ‘seepage’. Regardless of the unlimited supply of feedstock bio-gas will be in limited supply because it is recognised as a valuable fuel of the future and all forms of transport are seeking practical non-fossil solutions. Bio-gas is not currently available in volume but it’s development is being eagerly trialled by land transport operators in automotive and rail.
Rather pointing the finger of blame at other sectors shipping, as the most efficient form of transport, should be staking a strong claim for future use of bio-gas and and claiming superiority by actively engaging in supporting the development and adoption of bio-gas across the global fleet.

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 07:43:00 +0100

Future Automated Sailing Technology rigs, FAST rigs for short, are smart bits of kit. When we think of sailing vessels, square riggers of 120 years ago, we immediately associate them with uncertain delivery schedules, dangerous handling capability and filthy on-board conditions. Things have changed. FAST rigs, being automated, are operated from the bridge by means of push button controls.

The technology, created in the 1960s by German Wilhelm Prohls as the dynarig, has been developed and proven on the super-yacht The Maltese Falcon. She used sail propulsion alone for more than 60% of her time at sea. She crossed oceans, manoeuvred in and out of ports across the world and can be sailed straight off the dock (a very cool piece of seamanship captured on You Tube). The joke is she needs 2 sailing crew, one to push the buttons, the other to fetch the coffee.

To industrialise this technology loading and force analysis is undertaken on the best materials to use to create a robust, workaday solution for a merchant vessel rather than a money-no-object system that is a necessary element of superyacht DNA. The FAST rig combines steel and composites in a novel but straightforward and manageable way to secure the optimum techno-economic balances between strength, light-weighting and cost.

The sails themselves are like roller blinds, each individually fitted into the rig system via a cassette mechanism. This offers several advantages; when all the sails are fully deployed the propulsion effect is similar to a fixed wingsail but in varying weather conditions when the wind can be behaving differently at the top and the bottom of the masts various combinations of soft FAST rig sail can be employed allowing maximum optimisation of available wind. In the event that a sail blows out it is easy, safe and cheap to replace. This happens in port. The mast is tubular and will contain, on the inside, a safety ladder developed and approved for use in wind turbines. The crew clips out the old cassette and the new one in.






The FAST rig, as a consequence of automation, has no lines and rigging on deck meaning access to holds is considerably more straightforward than on the old traditional clipper ships and crews aren’t on deck on foul conditions hauling on ropes ensuring the safety of the ships crew.

Reliability is key in 21st century logistics systems and industrial sailing hybrid vessels have usual engine propulsion systems available ensuring schedules are maintained. Because these engines are used less often it ensures longer life and lower servicing and maintenance requirements. The economics of sailing hybrid vessels are different to that of a conventional ship, there is a marginally higher capital cost playing against a significantly lower and predictable operational budget. Where there is no dependency on volatile fossil fuel the opex can be fixed over the lifetime of the vessel. This may mean the traditional structure of the shipping system needs to be amended but does not diminish the evidence that wind works

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:22:00 +0100


The main selling point for using wind to augment propulsion on ships is simple: there are no plans to alter the price of wind anytime soon. It is an infinite, if intermittent, free fuel supply. Sailing and wind-assist devices deployed today will use ‘fuel’ that costs exactly the same for the vessels’ whole lifetime. Fixing a significant proportion of fuel cost allows greater certainty in operating budgets giving more room for manoeuvre in other critical areas.

21st century industrialised sailing ships are reliable, designed to deliver to the same schedules as any conventional ship - if the wind doesn’t blow there’s an engine to ensure logistics commitments are met. If the wind does blow sailing hybrid vessels increase speed to reduce overall fuel use along any given route. Smart weather routing systems devised for offshore yacht racing, and now adapted for the commercial sector, support optimum course decisions to minimise fuel use whilst maintaining schedules.

Modern sailing and wind-assist systems don’t require extra crew members. Sail systems are operated electronically from the bridge, there’s no rope pulling required, no need to slip across the foredeck in foul conditions risking life. Push button technology also enhances the opportunity to squeeze every bit of performance out of the wind and the rig, in seconds the sail system can respond to shifts in the wind. Research has shown that crews can welcome the opportunity to develop their skills and engage with new technology. 


Whilst there are several obstacles being addressed in the deployment of wind at sea none are insurmountable. Certain cargoes are more suited to early adoption of wind at sea and smaller dry bulk vessels are proving to be most promising first movers. Commercial ship designers and naval architects are figuring out how cargo can work around structures on deck, looking at loading/discharge self load solutions and interfacing with existing automated computerised cranes.

There are various ways of deploying wind on ships, the most basic is as a principle source of propulsion on smaller vessels by way of a 21st century automated square rig. Smaller vessels are inherently less efficient, unable to benefit from economies of scale, and are more vulnerable to vagaries in bunker prices. The proportion of operating budget on small ships attributable to fuel has risen from 10% to 60% in the last decade. Sailing hybrid ships, where 50% of the propulsion comes from ‘free fuel’, make economic sense. This financial prize is what drives the world’s greatest designers and naval architects to work alongside the dry bulk sector to create workable 21st century industrial sailing ships.

Thu, 03 Jul 2014 14:54:00 +0100




There’s a flurry of urgent activity now about the imminent implementation of the low sulphur regulations. The British Chamber of Shipping have been to Parliament to seek a delay in implementation; fuel suppliers are recommending early action on forward buying low sulphur fuels and deploying complex hedging tools.

The trouble is last minute dashes rarely end in sustainable - by which we mean certain, long term profitability - solutions. Once we get in to desperate positions we are forced to take desperate action and this is rarely the lowest cost, most rugged long term solution.

From an engineering perspective for the last 150 years or so it’s been relatively straightforward to deploy cheap, liquid fossil fuels in all maritime situations but things are not so simple now. The age of cheap fossil fuels is coming to an end and we can ignore it, wait til the last minute and panic buy a ‘quick-fix’ or we can start to think strategically now.

The global fleet is a complex ‘eco-system’ made up of multiple ship types operating in a myriad of situations responding to and driving the global economic system. Addressing this complexity demands a great deal of research, analysis and debate.

To compound the challenge we have to think long term; to try and predict how global systems will alter into an uncertain future.

Renewable energy has been adopted by land based systems - from automotive to power generation - as a resilient hedging tool to address the demise of fossil fuels. The maritime sector has multiple opportunities in this area too; there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution so we have to think smarter.

The global fleet, indeed the global economy, was built on wind power. It has huge potential. When we think of wind at sea we picture glorious old clippers but now it’s time to revise that thinking. Evolution of sailing ships was halted in the 1890s when the Industrial Revolution took hold. The Flying Cloud held the world NY-SF sailing record for more than 100 years. She was built in response to The Gold Rush and no sailing vessel could touch her performance.. 



As a global society we’ve changed a bit since the 19th century. How much potential is locked up in The Flying Cloud? We know America’s Cup yachts can sail faster than the wind, how much of that technology and thinking can we transfer to commercial shipping?
We need to embrace complex, challenging issues early and take decisive action to mitigate the costly risk of delay. The time to act is now 

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 16:18:00 +0100




At a maritime conference, Shipping in Changing Climates, in Liverpool, Peter Hinchcliffe OBE, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping(ICS), spoke of the sector’s response to climate change. Pointing to EEDI, SEEMP and slow steaming as key actions he noted that shipping was a function of consumer demand, if the sector was called to invest heavily to reduce emissions (save fuel) then consumers would have to pay.

Professor Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre, showed that our global society is currently on an emissions trajectory which will warm the planet by 4-6degrees whilst the political rhetoric would have us believe we are firmly committed to go no higher than 2degrees. To have any chance of achieving 2degrees - and both IMO and ICS have stated this is the target for shipping - the sector’s emissions must reduce by 30% by 2030. Something doesn’t add up. EEDI, SEEMP and slow steaming see emissions at 2000% above the 2degrees target.

But then maybe 2degrees doesn’t sound so alarming? Until we heard from delegates from the University of South Pacific who told of whole islands being forced to migrate due to sea level rises and the social and cultural breakdown that causes. The island nation is wholly dependent on imported scarce and expensive fossil fuels and without it kids don’t get to school, crops can’t be exported, life deteriorates. This is what climate change looks like.

Other sectors are responding proactively to climate change and as a consequence trade patterns are altering and will continue to do so. Climate induced changes in food production, new low carbon biofuels, changing consumer habits in response to increasing awareness - all these things will impact shipping.

The conference highlighted an array of lower and low carbon technology solutions that the sector is actively developing. LNG was recognised as a ‘transition’ fuel to create a lower carbon option, although issues around methane slip make it as polluting as current fuel oils. Shell’s speaker suggested waste-derived bio-methane could be available within 5 years. Waste heat recovery offered opportunities to save 10-20% emissions. Dr Michael Traut re-established wind as a viable option for modern shipping offering up to 50% fuel savings.

Desirable commercial outcomes were highlighted by Maersk underlining the positive impact on the bottom line from their carbon saving Triple E’s and wider strategies and from Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room which presented a financial solution to enable fuel/cost/carbon saving solutions to be retrofitted to existing ships without incurring additional capital cost.

Professor Anderson urged the conference to “think differently”. In doing so we create a more resilient shipping service.

Tue, 17 Jun 2014 11:49:00 +0100


Another week, another global scientific report underlining our position at Climate Code Red. The Antarctic is showing alarming signs of meltdown with unknowable consequences to the global climate. This was first highlighted as far back as 1968. Meanwhile Lord Nicholas Stern and economics colleagues in London have released a new study showing the economic models developed in 1991 have grossly underestimated the costs of responding to climate change.

In the UK this week the British Chamber of Shipping has called a debate in the Houses of Parliament to challenge and delay the application of EU sulphur regulations on shipping due to be implemented in Jan 2015. The start date and implications of the introduction of Emission Control Areas has been on the table for several years, discussed and argued about at a thousand conferences in the last decade and yet no positive response has been developed for accommodating the new regulations.

I’ve heard shipping industry leaders publically advocate non-compliance as there is insufficient resource to police ECAs whilst the Trident Alliance of major operators call for tighter controls in ECAs to ensure a level playing field. It’s all very messy.

Our collective reaction to climate change is first to behave like the ostrich - to stick our heads firmly in the sand and hum loudly so we can’t hear the warnings. When that doesn’t work we start to fight.

But there is another, more exciting, more fulfilling way - and that’s to choose the pioneer’s journey. The shipping industry has a wealth of innovation being developed to radically reduce emissions which will improve operating incomes - because emission reduction means less fuel.

Pioneers set sail centuries ago to explore new worlds and create new economies. We have that opportunity again, to develop a sustainable world.

It’s a much over-used word, sustainability, and often misunderstood. It’s about transitioning a fragile and vulnerable business to a robust and resilient one. A sustainable business isn’t about making less profit; it’s about making profit for ever. 


This blog was inspired by @rachelbotsman 

Embedded image permalink

Tue, 10 Jun 2014 11:05:00 +0100



With the implementation, and enforcement, of the Emission Control Area getting closer we see increasingly worrying predictions of increases in fuel costs for low sulphur options. One estimate predicts MGO consumption will increase by 50m mt, equivalent to 3% of total global middle-distillate consumption. In 2004 and 2010 when there were similar spikes in demand we saw a 20% increase in US highway diesel prices. If the past is any indicator of the future, shipping could face 20% increase in MGO price in response to the hike in demand. Adding this 20% to today’s (May 2014) price averages would see an 83% premium on LS MGO over HSFO in Rotterdam compared to today’s 52% premium. 

Big changes create big impacts. We have yet to see how trade flows may alter.

In 1846 the US owned 640 whaling ships. Whales contributed oil for lighting, perfumes and raw materials. In 1880 it was the fifth largest sector of the US economy contributing $10m to the US economy. Innovations like the faster, larger whaling barques and better harpoon and winch technologies gave US whalers competitive advantage. Then petroleum arrived. Fifty years later whaling in US was all but gone. In 1859 the US produced 2000 barrels; forty years later that was 2000 barrels every 17 mins. The whaling fleet was decimated by the arrival of ‘new’ oil and over hunting causing falling supply. 


 20th Century 3 masted barque.


The parallels to the current status of shipping are plain. The industry faces the twin challenges of rising bunker prices and increasing environmental legislation driven by science-backed societal concerns. 

At the end of this month politicians, industry leaders and NGOs meet in France to address the vulnerability of the world’s estuaries. 90% of EU trade passes through estuaries and their associated ports. 

Recommendations emerging from the summit will look at the impacts of shipping on emissions, wildlife, new structures and climate change which ultimately will lead to further restrictions on the sector. Simultaneously multi-national global brands like Electrolux, Heineken, IKEA, Nike, Marks and Spencer have signed up to the Clean Cargo Index - to improve the environmental performance of their supply chains. 

Innovation is key. What we learn from history is that nothing remains static. Everything has to respond one way or another to external stimuli. Shipping needs to respond positively if it is to profit in our fast changing world.  

Refs:
Whaling story via @james_bg

Tue, 03 Jun 2014 16:51:00 +0100




Last week we discussed the EU’s growing appetite to import biomass to support low carbon power generation capability to meet carbon reduction targets. This week President Obama announced carbon reduction targets for the USA. So whilst the politics mean it’ll take some time for any meaningful legislation to come into force the line has been drawn. It’s a fair bet that much of the biomass arising in the US will soon be utilised closer to home. Which leaves the EU with a challenge.

The energy industry is a highly complex, interconnected system that responds to the demands of society. It is facilitated by a heterogeneous global shipping fleet where each ship is a complex system in itself. All of these systems function within the confines of a finite planet, which throws further systemic challenges at us - how can we sustain a growing global population aspiring to what we in the west consider to be rights - cars, white goods, air travel. This is our meta-problem.

And we have to think about all of this in the context of the long term, where the only certainty is uncertainty.

Aviation, retail, construction, manufacturing - these sectors and more - are addressing the risks presented by economic volatility. How energy and resources are used, or not used, is core to that systems approach. Where new markets will emerge and what they may want to consume in 30+ years and where the raw materials for those products will arise needs to be considered. Thinking about the extent to which particular systems interlock with others and how to create competitive advantage is all part of systems thinking.

Here’s the opportunity. If ships nail down operating costs over the long term by switching to renewable energy sources and offer markets predictable priced logistics solutions, whilst the shipping business may become less thrilling, energy and supply systems can be somewhat stabilised and there will be a premium value in that proposition.

Wed, 28 May 2014 16:29:00 +0100




Information just released by the US Energy Information Administration reports the export of wood pellets, known as ‘biomass’, from US to EU nearly doubled in 2013 from 1.6m tons to 3.2mt. Mostly feedstock arose in SE and Mid Atlantic regions of USA and the greatest proportion of the exports headed to the UK where total demand for pellets has been accelerating dramatically from a near zero import in 2009 to 3.5mt in 2013.

Increase in demand for biomass is set to continue to satisfy demand for low carbon heat and power generation in the EU to facilitate meeting EU 20-20-20 targets. That is a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions (from 1990 levels), a 20% increase in use of renewable energy and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency across the region by 2020.

Biomass is deemed to be ‘carbon neutral’ as the absorption of CO2 by the trees/plants as they grow is equal to that emitted on combustion and so biomass is much in demand as a base fuel to meet carbon reduction targets. It can be co-fired, with coal, in existing power facilities and coal plants can be (relatively) straightforward to convert to biomass only generation plants.

Transport is something of the weak link, with the cost of transport accounting for about a quarter of overall cost of pellets. Further, shifting renewable fuels with fossil fuelled ships presents an open door to the environmental protesters already concerned about the overall sustainability of the supply chain.

‘Logical logistics’ would see renewable fuels used in the transport of renewable feedstocks. Reducing fuel cost and emissions by deploying renewables at sea to shift biomass would be beneficial to operators and cargo owners alike. Not only would greater price stability over the longer term emerge but the collaboration could point to a joint shipping-energy commitment to using technology solutions to address opposition concerns and so smooth the path for a faster expansion of the biomass market. Which, in turn, enables swifter achievement of targets.

Wed, 21 May 2014 08:21:00 +0100



A Chinese proverb: “When the winds of change blow some people build walls and others build windmills.”

On Sunday May 11 2014 over 75% of Germany’s electricity supply came from wind. In Q1 27% of that country’s total energy demand was provided by renewable power. Germany aims to provide nearly all of the nation’s power supply from renewable energy by 2050. 

Energiewende - Germany’s energy transition programme - is founded on the knowledge that a fossil-fuel based system is unsustainable. This policy is underpinned by the consumer paying for ambitious government policy. In 2014 there are no technical or commercial obstacles to providing a highly sophisticated nation with renewable energy. The consequence of a significant proportion of electricity generated by renewables is a fall in wholesale energy prices that will eventually lead to a reduction in prices to the consumer. It’s a long game but the rewards are beginning to show.

In shipping, it seems, we are less ambitious. By believing that the efficiency of shipping alone can address the challenges the industry will face in a fossil fuel constrained future is naive. It is, in the proverb’s terms, a wall building exercise. We may not like the consequences of change but there is huge opportunity in embracing possibilities.

Just as a 21st century wind turbine successfully evolved from a last century windmill so shipping can evolve renewable solutions for the global fleet. Maersk has adopted giganticism as a solution but that’s not necessarily an option for smaller organisations. Bulk ships are responsible for moving the more fundamental building blocks of a modern global economic system - feedstocks, fuels, raw materials. Short sea solutions may be much needed to provide low carbon on-shipping support for the gigantic box carriers. Smart 21st century, renewable energy solutions for ships of all shapes and sizes are out there, the challenge is for the sector to embrace the opportunity for ambitious change.

Tue, 13 May 2014 11:51:00 +0100


Last week, May 6th 2014, one of the world’s largest retailers, Tesco, announced it was making greater use of sea transport to reduce emissions. Tesco calculates that bringing goods directly from Gdnyia to Teesport by sea and reducing its road transport by 80% had saved the company €418 000.

So, was it “emissions reduction” that prompted Tesco to shift modalities, or de-congesting Europe’s roads, or the impact to its financial bottom line. I suspect the latter. Because no matter how hard we wish for environmental solutions to take hold they only do so when there is irresistible imperative and money is king among reasons to effect radical change.

We know shipping is the most carbon efficient mode of commercial transport but we also know that growth in world trade will lead to shipping’s contribution to emissions increasing disproportionately with other industry sectors, like retail, where high profile commitment to emission reduction is a part of an overarching long-term strategy. 


Emission reduction commitments are made not for ‘greenwash’ purposes but to reduce corporate exposure to risk. Carbon emission comes from burning fossil fuels which are subject to increasing price / availability uncertainties. No matter how hard we wish they weren’t. 

Reducing dependency on fossil fuels, by switching to low carbon options, like shipping, makes sense. Switching from fossil fuels to locally sourced secure supply of renewable fuels makes double sense. BA announced last week it was trialling waste-derived fuels for its aircraft fleet. Were it to be successful air freight would topple sea freight from its “most carbon efficient” pedestal in the flash of a wing. The shipping sector needs to look beyond efficiency savings, where particularly on short-sea routes, savings can be marginal at best and begin a realistic analysis of the potential of renewable fuels.

Wed, 27 Jun 2012 19:03:00 +0100

Nerves of Steel

Yesterday I went to hell. On a train.

I witnessed the birth of steel plate of the type that will be used to build B9 Ships.

In a dark, dangerous, filthy, oily, searing hot, screaming loud cathedral of a place. Molten steel rolled at shocking speed, emitting tornadoes of steam. Standing in full protective gear on a gantry above red-hot steel plate - an image burned into my psyche forever. A truly extraordinary experience.

And yet day in day out guys in full woollen suits (wool being the best fire retardant material - thanks sheep!) operate, perform and deliver in that dehumanised inferno. Making the steel that never satiates our lust for stuff.

Steel Plant


The safety gear gave me a weird sense of detachment - hard hat, glasses, ear plugs, gloves, boots. I was there, but only partially so. Maybe that’s how a steel worker survives that place.

Much of the steel made in Scunthorpe is used in infrastructural projects. Train lines, ship building, bridge supports, bomb proof barriers. And yet walking from my hotel to the plant in the morning the infrastructure in sunny (and it was) Scunny was collapsing. The ‘pavements’ were off-road hiking courses. Empty houses, deserted streets.

In 1972 26 000 people were employed in Scunny. Now it’s 4000 as a result of the Basic Oxygen Steelmaking (BOS) process which maximises economic efficiency.

How do 22000 people evaporate? The wonderful man, Ron Wilkins (get to his Open Garden this weekend if you can), our guide, has worked at Scunny for more than 40 years. At the outset of his career most of his family worked at the plant. Now it’s only him. His kids live elsewhere, where they can find work. Our communities break down.

Approaching the Tata Steel site I was struck by the scale. I learned that the Romans had established a mine on this site. Geography had gifted the place and just down t’road in Yorkshire in the Wolds limestone could be mined to make steel. The process became commercialised in 1860 - by relations of David Cameron.

Now it’s epic. A site with a 15 mile boundary enclosing mountains of steaming slag, piles of virgin ore, heaps of scrap for reprocessing (the content of B9 Ships’ steel plate at the outset will be 20% recycled), caterpillar trucks the size of houses, cooling towers and furnaces and rolling mills as far as the eye could see.

The good people we met do what they can - within the constraints of a profit-only paradigm - to re-use and recycle. Carbon monoxide is reused to produce energy. 1 million trees have been planted. Kingfishers flash across reclaimed mines and water sources. Dust is swept up (on an epic scale) and ore deposits re-used. A project to make the site energy self-sustaining was shelved because of the economic downturn.

The people we met at Tata Steel are proud - rightly so - of what they make and the human endeavour and ingenuity they deploy every hour to produce this great stuff.

We talked of them helping us build the flagships of the future, of bringing that abundance of human ingenuity to bear on the mega-problems facing our world today through collaboration and a re-engineered intention.

It is simply not possible to get 100% recycled steel to build B9 fossil fuel free ships today. But we can embark on an urgent journey together to make it possible before it’s too late. And there growing on the slag was part of the answer. Vipers Bugloss reclaiming the land. In that most hostile of environments. How do they do it? Adapt. Those plants ...nerves of steel!

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 13:55:00 +0000

I lean back in my camping chair surveying the spread of crabs and lobster, salads, new potatoes, strawberries ...on the table before me and declare triumphantly, “Everything on this table came from this one tiny island.”
 

My husband mutters (for what else do husbands do?) staring pointedly at my glass, “Well, not quite everything, dear.”

The conversation rapidly descends into a take on Monty Python’s “what did the Romans ever do for us?”

“OK,” I concede, “everything except the wine.”

“And the lemons, olive oil in the dressing, the salt, the pepper, the bread...”

“Ah-ha” I shriek “the bread was made on Bryher.”

“But the flour wasn’t grown here.”

Note to self: If I get my time again don’t marry a pedant.

The following morning I watch the supply ship the Lyonesse Lady discharge her very mixed cargo of milk, butter, peaches, organic Yeo Valley yoghurts, Ecover washing up liquid, BBQ coal, wet suit accessories, tent water proofer ....I amble gratefully to the tiny, over flowing shop so I can get provisions for my familiar (almost all imported) breakfast. Still, I half-mutter to myself about the extortionate prices.

I recognise the little flag of convenience I have fixed in my consciousness. Sustainability isn’t actually as easy as I’d like to imagine. I tune my awareness to our holiday island’s dependency on shipping. How much of what we take for granted is carried by hardy seafarers across lumpy seas day in, day out.
 

Days later a ferocious Atlantic gale hits the island and takes the roof canopy off our tent. It’s a rude awakening. Our running repairs are good but this storm beats a bit of recycled guy rope and waterproofer and we sleep (or don’t) in wet sleeping bags. I cry and want to go home.

But we can’t. This storm is immense there is no link to the mainland.

It is time to wake up to our global dependency on shipping. 90% of world trade is moved by sea. Take a moment. Become aware. Food, energy, manufactured goods - everything gets here by sea.

The newly appointed CEO of Maerskline, Soren Skou said recently, “We have a huge challenge on oil prices; for that reason alone freight rates have to come up." He also said he intended to introduce ‘slow steaming’ (slowing ships down to reduce fuel costs) across the Maersk fleet, which has the net effect of reducing overall capacity. In short - less stuff at higher prices.

The International Chamber of Shipping is keen to stress how cheap and efficient global shipping is. After our collective sleepwalk into the Sub Prime Mortgage Dream I’ve become deeply suspicious about being told I can have it all.

How can shipping be so ‘cost-effective’?

It isn’t being gained through technological innovations and efficiencies deployed as a response to climate change legislation. Last week the International Maritime Organisation procrastinated - again - on making any real decision on significantly reducing emissions from shipping.

We all know which way oil prices are going and that fuel is an ever increasing proportion of operational costs of the ships delivering our stuff. How, then, can shipping manage the other operational costs so effectively? The flag of convenience - allowing a merchant ship to register in a sovereign state different to that of its owner - allows owners to avoid regulations covering health and safety, enabling them to employ ‘cost effective’ crews in sub-standard working conditions. This is pretty convenient for us because we’re looking the other way (muttering about rising prices.)

The storm’s going to hit. The combined impact of inevitable climate change legislation and rising oil prices will lead to rapidly reduced capacity within shipping and ever increasing cost. The things we take for granted will be scarcer. Fear roots itself in scarcity. Civil unrest is a very real potential outcome.

I’ve been told often enough I’m not living in the ‘real world’ when I urge that we explore the potential for renewable energy on ships.

Mitigating against volatility in fuel costs by deploying - free, clean - wind for up to 60% of journey time; breaking our dependency on fossils by powering an off-the-shelf Rolls-Royce engine with waste derived bio-gas for the remainder of the time seems like a real world solution for a real world already badly constrained by unpredictable liquid fossil fuel supply that is only set to get worse.

Putting 55m high sailing rigs on 21st century ships is going to make you look. We want you to look.

When we stabilise operational costs we can pay proper wages for dangerous and difficult work and make doubly sure on safety.

As a society we can no longer look away pretending it won’t happen to us. It is already happening. We need to start the transition.

This is what convenience in the 21st century looks like - the conveniences we’ve all become dependent upon - of being able to heat our homes (on imported energy) and have a cup of (imported) tea whilst staying in touch on our (imported) computers as we go in to an uncertain future.

Footnote: An interesting example of the real cost of cheap - the Deepwater Horizon rig was flagged in the Marshall Islands.

Tue, 22 Mar 2011 09:15:00 +0000

The Life of Brian - the movie - is packed with great scenes. One of the most searing is when the People's Liberation Front of Judea confronts the Judean People's Front. A scuffle breaks out and someone shouts, "Stop! - we must focus on the real enemy". Everyone stops and realises their mistake and with a simultaneous dawning they spontaneously combine to rally against Liberation Front for Judean People. "No, no, no" "The Romans, the Romans are the enemy".

We don't have the luxury of time for infighting. Climate change is real and now.

During Climate Week thousands of events are being held reaching out to supermarket shoppers, to breakfast cereal eaters, to schools and offices across the country. We'll only make meaningful progress when the majority are on board and we are nowhere near that goal yet.

Maybe Climate Week could have chosen more appropriate sponsors but I don't suppose there was much choice of funding offers available to them. The work that Kevin Steele and his team have started is essential and overdue. I applaud their work.

Doing what's best for the future is going to mean some very tough decisions and forming some unpalatable relationships. It has to be a Big Tent and we all have to squeeze in and offer what we can.

Fri, 18 Mar 2011 15:12:00 +0000

We’ve got Libya/Bahrain/Yemen on the one hand and the terrible Japanese earthquake on the other. The middle East situation might well have us fundamentally questioning our dependency on oil and the deteriorating condition of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant might make us wonder about the sanity of depending on nuclear.

Those of us in the renewable energy business are assuming that now everyone will recognise that what we’ve been banging on about for two decades makes sense. That the wide range of clean and reliable sources of renewable energy available will go some significant way to meeting our energy needs - if not all of our wants.

But seems we’re deluding ourselves.

Watching BBC Question Time last night and hearing the wide ranging justification for nuclear and entrenched opposition to renewables sent me to bed feeling miserable.

But I woke up curious. What is it that makes us all kid ourselves that we, and only we, are right? That’s the gap we have to bridge. How do we reach out to those “idiots” to ensure meaningful debate ensues?

In the renewable energy business we anticipate many exciting new job opportunities, economic prosperity and a fairer society being derived from inspired engineering and elegant design solutions that enable a transition to a clean and healthier future. We can’t get our heads round why people wouldn’t want that.

Maybe we need to communicate it better. Maybe the solutions to the energy crisis hurtling towards us aren’t all about engineering but are also about building relationships. Relationships with people we may find difficult. It’s time to get over it. And put the safety of our children ahead of our need to feel right at any cost.

Someone once asked me: would you rather be right? Or dead right?

Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:51:00 +0000

Monday Sep 20 12:08:00 BST 2010
The roads were empty of traffic but filled with police personnel. On reaching the control barriers I flashed my invitation and passport and was given access to Westminster Palace. I click clacked my way past the crowds wondering if they were wondering who on earth I was.

Westminster Hall is awesome. Really, this is an appropriate time for an overused word. Towering ceilings supported by ancient oak trusses and a thousand years of history to wade through to take ones plush seat.

That morning on the news I’d heard the Pope would be addressing ‘Members of Parliament and Civic Leaders’ at Westminster Hall. Knowing I certainly wasn’t an MP it’s weird to find myself in the category of ‘civic leader’. It’s made me curious about who I am, what I’m doing and how what I do can influence a wider agenda. For twenty years we’ve been nudging, coercing, persuading a vision to become reality; a vision of fossil fuel free sailing ships - graceful, powerful, effective; ships that will create manufacturing jobs in regions most in need of regeneration, that support the development of island economies and re-ignite, and, this is my most fervent hope, a sense of optimism and opportunity in response to recession and climate change.

I’m not a Catholic, indeed organised religion seems to me to have been responsible for more hate than love. Certainly I leaned towards the vocal, high profile opposition to the Papal visit but on receiving an invitation from the Foreign Office to hear the Pope’s address I was forced to explore my own ethics more deeply. In our work at B9 Shipping we believe we must engage whole heartedly with those we might judge to be our enemies in an effort to accelerate the speed of change. I believe it’s essential to find the common ground, a consensual way forward if we are to create a robust enough economy and society to withstand the future.

I found myself in agreement with many more of Pope Benedict XVI words than I had imagined I would. I have to say it was tough to catch every word and I am inordinately grateful that the speech is reproduced on the internet but I caught, and was touched by, key words and phrases.

Political and religious commentators have picked over the speech and shared it widely, emphasising the Pope’s rebuke against secularism. I’m not so sure we, as a society, are marginalising Christianity but I’m happy to talk about it. But I’m not sure it was the main and whole point of The Pope’s address.

I’m no expert in diplomatic speak but I was there and I’d like to know why no one is pointing to the Pope’s suggestion that collaboration should take place on environmental responsibility? Why are interpreters of the Pope’s message not picking up on his noting of this Government’s 0.7% GDP commitment to Overseas Development whilst being able to find ‘vast resources’ to prop up financial institutions deemed to be ‘too big to fail’?

This same question nags at me. I can’t get my head round it. Thankfully the Pope is more eloquent than I ...

“Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

Now that resonates with me. And I just love that my grammar check has a problem with the composition of the sentence! It underlines that each of us has a voice and a view, that we can have courage and say what we feel even if we get our grammar wrong.  No matter how small we believe ourselves to be we must enter in to this national conversation. Everyone’s voice is crucial.

Naive? Foolish? - I don’t know - but I’m keen to find, and explore, the common ground that allows us to face the future and I certainly found more of that than I had anticipated at Westminster Hall last Friday.

Read the full speech here:

http://www.thepapalvisit.org.uk/Replay-the-Visit/Speeches/Speeches-17-September/Pope-Benedict-s-address-to-Politicians-Diplomats-Academics-and-Business-Leaders

Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:49:00 +0000

Tuesday May 4 4:39:00 BST 2010
Envisioning the low carbon future at sea
 
And how B9 Shipping underpins its smooth and rapid transition

90% of the stuff we consume is carried by sea. Shipping has largely excluded itself from environmental scrutiny because often as not ships are registered in exotic unregulated locations and on an 'emissions per tonne carried' basis shipping looks like a pretty good way to shift goods. However, this relative effieicncy encourages a modal shift to sea transport which in turn leads to increased CO2 emissions from shipping.

Already shipping is responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions – as much as Canada or Germany. Modal shifts could see that increase to a projected 18% by 2050 in a business as usual model.[1]Furthermore bunker fuel – which is used in shipping – is more akin to tar than the refined stuff we put into our cars at the pump. So it’s dirtier and accounts for wider pollution problems in ports accounting for some 60,000 deaths every year. [2]
  Oil powered ships have to keep increasing in size to optimise economies of scale in the face of increasing fuel costs. B9 Ships are small (and beautiful) and have no dependency on fossil fuels but can get bigger as the design is developed in practice. Conventional ships are being forced to slow down to reduce both fuel consumption and emissions. As they do so and as B9 Ships evolve performance variances will converge. The fossil fuel free cargo ship, the B9 Ship, will be the favoured option for best value – both internally and externally.

Complacency in the shipping sector has been endemic and the failure at Copenhagen 2009 to address shipping emissions allows the industry to continue to drag its heels. As the realisation of the full effects of how Peak Oil impacts our global community urgently establishing global, reliable, affordable fossil fuel free transport infrastructure becomes critical.

B9 Shipping believes now is the time to act, and since all the technology is readily available and just needs bringing together in an innovative way, and since action results in commercial and social benefits, there‘s no impediment to just getting on with it. So let’s just do it.

[1]International Maritime Organisation
[2]http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12892-shipping-pollution-kills-60000-every-year.htm   linter alia

Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:47:00 +0000

Tuesday Feb 23 2:59:00 GMT 2010
It was foggy as we crossed the Tyne on the Metro to Pallion in Sunderland. Once the most productive shipbuilding region in the world the Wear is now a run down kind of place but full of warm-hearted, passionate people.
 
The Pallion Shipyard is a monument to the loss of engineering capabilities in the UK. An awesome covered shipbuilding facility with capacity to build several B9 Ships simultaneously and yet it’s lying idle, home now to a couple of tiny engineering outfits, a once noble ship, The Manxman, waiting to be broken up, and a small flock of pigeons.
 
But the North East of England has become one of the UK’s first low carbon economic areas (LCEA) and is focussing its energies on ‘ultra low carbon vehicles’. There can be nothing more ultra low carbon than a vehicle powered by wind – the most available and free resource, augmented by B9-biogas powered engines . So we eagerly anticipate that Pallion could be building ships again one day soon.
 
The fog is clearing and we are beginning to be able to make out exactly how UK PLC can build B9 Ships in multiple destinations around the country.
 
Upcoming B9 Shipping Presentations
 
David Surplus, MD B9 Shipping, is presenting a paper entitled
 
THE POTENTIAL OF THE RENEWABLE ENERGY DIRECTIVE TO STIMULATE THE RETURN OF COASTAL SAILING CARGO VESSELS
 
at the
 
Royal Institution of Naval Architects Environmental Sustainability Conference on March 10
 
and the following day he is presenting at
 
The Annual Marine Propulsion Conference a paper called
FOSSIL FUEL FREE FUTURE: POWERING THE NEXT GENERATION OF VESSELS

Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:46:00 +0000

Thursday Dec 3 11:38:00 GMT 2009

1000 jobs created and 200 000 tonnes of CO2 saved each year by enabling the emerging biomass power generation industry to achieve the 2020 targets set out in the recently published Renewable Energy Directive (RED). This is what results from B9 Shipping supporting just one niche market.
 
Remember in the last blog we asked how much CO2 we’d save if all of the 10,000 similar sized coasters currently operating across the world were replaced, over time, by a fossil fuel free B9 Ship? We’ve calculated that each 3000 tonne coaster operating on conventional bunker fuel emits 16 tonnes of CO2 per day. So if we assume they only operate 300 days a year (which is unlikely since it would be uneconomic to do so – but makes the maths easier!) then we’d save the planet 48m tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
 
When B9 identifies a challenge that needs urgent attention, like emissions from shipping, it looks to inspirational engineering solutions.
 
You will have by now seen the initial design for the new B9 Ship. Rob Humphreys has taken a 21st century view on the old square rig clipper ships. Ultra modern technologies developed in the offshore yacht racing arena have been incorporated into the best aspects from the time tested sailing vessels. So we’ve cleared any standing rigging off the deck to enable swift and easy load and discharge of cargo, the steel masts will be hollow to save weight and allow crew safe access to the spars and sails in the event of the need for repairs and, by including sophisticated technology, the whole rig can be turned in a moment to avoid damage or danger to human life in a sudden squall.  There’s a whole raft of other benefits but you get the drift!
 
Once the design is finalised and has been tested at the Wolfson Unit at Southampton University then we set to work building ships. 500 people will be needed to build the steel hulls for the ships required by this one industry alone - the biomass power generators - to meet RED target. The mast, sails and rigging development will need some 100 people, we’ll be safeguarding jobs at Corus steel mills and creating at least 5 new jobs in the Corus plasma cutting facility. The fitting out, management and administration requirements will employ another 100 or so people. 300 people will be needed to crew those ships. All of these people in new work have money to spend in the wider economy.
 
Once we truly embrace the need to solve environmental challenges, then we can find solutions. Einstein said “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. At B9 we know there is no option but to find solutions and we turn to inspirational engineering. This in turn creates jobs, stimulates economic revival and saves carbon. This is the Green Revolution in action. What’s not to like?

Tue, 01 Feb 2011 11:45:00 +0000

September 29th 2009 – a date to remember? We believe so.
 
For almost two decades we’ve been developing the concept of modern sailing cargo ships. In the same way a 19th century windmill evolved into a 21st century wind turbine we have long believed the same is true of sailing ships.
 
We have worked up detailed Business Plans and Feasibility studies over the years and no one ever found any significant impediment in either our technology or our commercial analysis. So why has it taken so long?
 
Increasingly we have (almost) all become acutely aware that climate change is the most important issue on our collective agenda. Without a planet upon which to live all other issues become meaningless. As we move towards the Climate Change talks in Copenhagen in December there is a heightened awareness of our collective responsibility to take global action.
 
After Kyoto the shipping industry was charged with making significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions but it failed to do so, citing the immense complexity of negotiation due to the international nature of the sector. We don’t underestimate how difficult it is to reach international agreement but we do recognise that we have no other option but to seek and find solutions to alleviate climate change. That’s what B9, as environmental entrepreneurs, are all about. It’s all too important to just throw our hands in the air and say, “Impossible!”
 
Shipping emissions are on the international agenda now and we have to find a way to reduce them come hell or high water – precisely what our species face if we fail.
 
B9 Ships offer a simple, straightforward solution for small coastal vessels based on bringing together proven technologies in innovative ways. Obviously 3000dwt vessels represent a relatively small section of international shipping but B9 Ships demonstrate that commitment and collaboration deliver results. And there are some 10 000 small coasters out there across the world – if each of them becomes a fossil fuel free B9 Ship we can only begin to estimate how many emissions will be saved – in fact that’s just the kind of thing B9ers like to do so check back and we’ll tell you!
 
We believe we are building the flagships for the low carbon future, a future where we explore and adopt fresh ways of working together bound by the common goal of reducing emissions.
  September 29th 2009, the day B9 Shipping project was formally announced and this website went live. And all of a sudden we’re powering ahead with support from all quarters and, at last, it feels like we’ve really got the wind in our sails.

B9 Energy Group       T: +44 (0)28 2826 3900    F: +44 (0)28 2826 3901    E: info@b9energy.com    W: www.b9energy.com

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