June 28th 2022 | Piyush Raj

Why Decarbonization Demands Digitalization

Since 1995, representatives from UN member states have gathered at the Conference of Parties (COP) to assess measures taken to reduce carbon emissions and generate further progress in decarbonization. This collective effort to drive decarbonization has its origins in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Starting in 1992, it led to the goal of keeping global warming below 2C in the coming century (2000-2001) – with a specific aim to reduce CO₂ emissions enough to ensure 1.5C. 

Decarbonization within the shipping industry

In accordance with these goals, the shipping industry has been working on the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) mandate to reduce its Carbon Intensity Index by 40% by 2030 and cut overall Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2050. However, some of the more ambitious members of the industry have set their sights even further, with the aim of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Major changes are required to do this – namely the development of a reliable carbon-free fuel source and the transition from traditional fossil-fuel powered ships to those that run on carbon-free fuel. 

That said, there is not much time remaining to carry out such substantial changes if members of the shipping industry are going to achieve their decarbonization goals. Even more pressing is the fact that much of the discussion around decarbonization – particularly in the shipping industry – fails to touch upon a critical part of the process. While boardrooms and conferences like COP are abuzz debating the best alternative fuel sources for reducing carbon emissions, the elephant in the room is how the impact of such changes will be measured. 

Measuring decarbonization with digitalization

The measurement challenge is extremely relevant not just in the long term and with regard to the use of alternative fuels, but also to solutions shipping companies are applying in the present to help reduce their emissions. These include the use of energy savings devices mounted as appendages on the hulls of ships, and new technologies such as air bubbles. 

When it comes to measurement – and therefore decarbonization as a whole, the word that should be present in every conversation is digitalization. Digitalization can help companies quickly and accurately measure the impact different solutions are having on their effort to reduce emissions. It is therefore crucial to the ability to understand what the best methods are for cutting emissions and to find the best path towards meeting decarbonization goals. 

Looking beyond the overall benefit of digitalization to decarbonization within the shipping industry, here are four main reasons ship owners should focus on digitalization: 

Regardless of where you stand on the emissions abatement strategies debate, it is clear for shipowners that the first step is digitalization. 

Congratulations to those who have stepped on this journey, but for those still contemplating, remember the 1st Jan 2023 deadline to earn the EEXI ticket to operate the ship and subsequently CII impacting what speed your assets will do. All your efforts towards improving them are going to be much simpler if you have embarked on a SMARTShip or SMARTVoyager journey!

About the author

Piyush Raj is a Sr Director of product management in Alpha Ori Technologies and leads SMARTVoyager product management and Data Science team. Contact: Piyush@alphaori.sg

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