Seafarers’ role in reducing ship emissions

ICS guide to greenhouse gas emissions includes the seafarers’ role in energy efficiency solutions

By Chris Waddington

The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions affects every aspect of the shipping industry today with regulations and deadlines enacted on an ongoing basis. While much of the discussion revolves around the technical issues and definitions of decarbonisation, there are many actions that seafarers themselves can take with support from their shipping companies, subject to the approaches which they may decide to adopt. These solutions are included in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Guide to IMO Regulatory Compliance, published in late November by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

The guide takes readers through the first step on the route to decarbonisation: preparing for compliance with the IMO regulatory framework, and in particular, the latest amendments to MARPOL, which came into effect in November 2022. It is the first of what will be a developing portfolio of guidance and support for the industry.

As described in the guide, energy efficiency solutions fall into two categories: those that must be enacted during the design stage of a ship’s construction or refit, and those that can be enacted by officers and crew during the normal operation of the vessel.

Operational optimisation measures focus on reducing the amount of energy used for key services, namely engine operations, navigation, and cargo operations, and are presented in several main areas:

  • Deck and bridge operations: measures include autopilot adjustment and use; trim optimisation; ballast operations management; voyage optimisation; speed management; just in time arrivals; and hydraulic systems. For example, the guide suggests the following actions for hydraulic system management: “Hydraulic systems are used throughout the ship to power deck machinery such as mooring gear, cargo handling equipment (cranes, booms) or power tools. Efficient management relies on the co-ordination of tasks or jobs, which will contribute to a more efficient use of auxiliary engines, leading to fuel saving. Good communication and planning between the ship’s departments is key to efficient use. Best practices may also include switching off a hydraulic system and its pumps when not in use.”
  • Engine room operations: measures include main engine performance optimisation; electrical load management; and steam production. For example, the guide describes the importance of electrical load management: “This measure consists of managing the loads of auxiliary diesel engines, used to supply electrical power to the ship. Ships may be running more auxiliary engines simultaneously than are actually needed. Since diesel engines are less efficient at part loads, good management relies on avoiding situations where diesel engines are left running at low loads. Lowering the number of auxiliary engines also reduces the engine hours, the rate of wear and tear per hour, lubrication oil consumption and maintenance work.”
  • Digital solutions: measures include performance or efficiency management tools and predictive maintenance tools. For example, the guide describes the growing trend toward data monitoring and analysis as a means of optimising operations: “For propulsion systems and engines, digitalisation already offers services such as predictive maintenance. Tools can provide instant, in-depth diagnostic analysis of the engine with actionable advice or steps that will reduce fuel oil consumption. This can ensure the engine is operating at maximum performance, which will not only improve environmental outputs but also extend its lifetime.”

The ICS sees seafarer and operator roles as critical. There is no doubt that reducing emissions is the single most important global issue today. In the shipping industry, the responsibility for achieving this falls squarely on the shoulders of our ship operators. It is essential they have access to the best expert advice possible on the implications of the legislation.

Chris Waddington is technical director at the International Chamber of Shipping. To find out more about Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Guide to IMO Regulatory Compliance, visit