It is estimated that 90% of the world's goods are transported by ship. Not surprisingly therefore, national and international shipping produces a lot of CO2 – something in the region of 1 billion tons annually. Although it has to be accepted that in terms of grams of CO2 per kilometre per ton transported, shipping is more environmentally friendly than road, rail or air, the sheer volume of CO2 produced by ships is an issue which is putting it on the global climate agenda.
Pressure is therefore mounting on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to address global climate regulation for international shipping through an agreement that will bind all flag states and help secure an effective reduction of harmful emissions without distorting competition.
One might think that for Denmark, whose merchant fleet carries a big share of the world's total shipped goods (10% and rising), such an agreement and the tougher demands it will bring, might put pressure on the Danish shipping industry. But as an article in financial daily newspaper Børsen reports, the industry – which includes a large number of sub-suppliers to the big shipping companies – is very keen for it to happen, because it will put Danish companies at an advantage.
Michael Prehn of the Danish Maritime Association, which represents Danish sub-suppliers to the shipping industry, told Børsen that the association's members are already well advanced in developing new environmentally and climate friendly solutions, and that their substantial store of knowledge and expertise is giving them a competitive edge against sub-suppliers from the US and Asia.
It is in hull design and engine technology where the biggest improvements can be made to increase energy efficiency and reduce a ship's fuel consumption and harmful exhaust emissions, and it is in exactly these areas where Denmark leads the way. The country has some of the world's best ship designers and on the engineering side, MAN B&W Diesel in Copenhagen designs by far the majority of the engines that propel the world's fleet of merchant ships.
Another notable sub-supplier to the Danish shipping industry is marine paint manufacturer Hempel, which has developed an environmentally friendly silicone paint that enables a ship's hull to glide through the water more easily, thus saving significantly on fuel and CO2 emissions. The company expects that while annual sales of conventional hull paint are likely to see a rise of up to 20%, sales of its silicone paint are set to surge by 100%.
These, and oceans of other enterprising developments, bode well for Denmark's many shipping sub-supplier companies, who look forward with anticipation to the IMO bringing in a binding agreement for the international shipping industry, which it is hoped will be in place by 2010.