World Maritime Day: Ships geared for gas
27 September 2023
FOR a nation girt by sea and where 99% of its international trade comes and goes via ships, tomorrow's World Maritime Day should give Australia pause to consider how shipping should be fuelled.
According to Australia's Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics, 1,709.4 million tonnes of international and coastal cargo moved through our wharves in 2020-21, with 6,315 uniquely identified cargo ships making 30,613 port calls.
"At the 2022 Federal Election, the Labor Party pledged to rebuild Australia's coastal shipping fleet. It begs the question: what will power these vessels? There are two viable options – marine diesel or gas," Brett Heffernan, CEO of Gas Energy Australia, said.
"LPG yields an immediate 25% reduction in emissions compared to marine diesel. But, as renewable gases are developed over the next few years, those emissions will plummet to net zero using bioLPG and, ultimately, actual zero using synthetic renewable LPG (rLPG).
"Using LPG as the fuel of choice has an instant positive impact in reducing emissions now but, equally, the ability to switch to bioLPG and rLPG as 'drop in' replacements, requiring no additional capital costs or equipment change, is a winning move.
"European nations and the US provide incentives encouraging fuel switching from marine diesel to gas. Across the globe, there has been a sea-change with gas-fuelled ships increasing from 18 vessels in 2010 to 936 vessels today in service and another 876 on order.
"Perversely, this means Australia gets the world's clunkers – diesel-powered cruise and freight vessels – navigating through our waters and docking at our ports.
"In Australia, three of the most recent private acquisitions to our shipping fleet are powered by LPG. These vessels are purchased to be in operation for many decades, with LPG chosen as the fuel of choice for its immediate emissions reductions and its longer-term flexibility as a net zero and actual zero option.
"Adopting LPG also prevents the inherent dangers posed by marine diesel ships. If a diesel ship were to run aground, collide with another vessel or sink in Australian waters it would be an ecological disaster without parallel for our pristine beaches, waters and the sea life they support.
"Such an incident would have far-reaching and long-term ramifications for local businesses, fisheries, tourism operators, hospitality venues and a host of associated impacts. This scenario is entirely avoidable. Gas-fuelled vessels are clean and, in the event of an incident at sea, the gas can be released, dissipating without environmental impact as it neither slicks nor sediments.
"All new vessels in Australian waters, including ferries, should be geared for gas. Supporting such a shift would set-up our maritime sector to achieve net zero in the short-term, and actual zero come the 2040s, while dramatically reducing the risks to the environment.
"It would solve our national reliance on imported diesel-oil, replaced with renewable gases that Australia can produce in abundance. This would deliver genuine fuel security and self-sufficiency, which underpins the point of having a sovereign fleet."
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