For Canadian and U.S. industry, transporting cargo on the Great Lakes-Seaway has significant environmental, logistical and social benefits.
In an age when the effects of greenhouse gas emissions are impossible to ignore, the marine transportation industry offers a sustainable and efficient alternative to road and rail. Shipping is the most energy efficient way to move the materials that are the building blocks of our lives,” says Stephen Brooks, the President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce. “It’s completely indispensible to environmental sustainability.”
“Rail and trucks would emit 19 percent and 533 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, respectively, if these modes carried the same cargo the same distance as the Great Lakes-Seaway fleet.”
Facts and figures
The facts are hard to ignore. A recent study conducted by the Research and Traffic Group found that “rail and trucks would emit 19 percent and 533 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, respectively, if these modes carried the same cargo the same distance as the Great Lakes-Seaway fleet.”
The report also concluded that if Great Lakes-Seaway marine shipping cargo shifted permanently to trucks, it would lead to $4.6 billion in additional highway maintenance costs over a 60-year period, without including pollution increase.“
It would take 963 trucks to carry 30,000 tonnes of cargo – that’s what one Seaway-sized ship can carry,” says Brooks.
“The industry is pushing itself. It’s setting benchmarks and is constantly reducing its environmental impact, not only for today but for future generations.”
The industry has also spearheaded the creation of the ‘Green Marine’ program — a voluntary, industry-run initiative that challenges participating companies to improve their environmental performance across a wide range of indicators beyond simple regulatory compliance.
Industry participants are scored on their performance and the results are independently verified by a third party and shared publicly.“
Since the program began there has been continuous self-improvement,” says Brooks. “The industry is pushing itself. It’s setting benchmarks and is constantly reducing its environmental impact, not only for today but for future generations.”
Showing How It Can Be Done
Another practical example of how the marine transportation industry is currently working to reduce emissions is the eight new Equinox Class vessels that Algoma has under construction in China. The first vessel, the Algoma Equinox, was recently delivered to Algoma, while the remainder will be delivered through 2014 and 2015.
In 2010, when the federal government made the landmark decision to remove the import duty on foreign-built vessels, Algoma decided that the time was right to update its fleet and, with that, raise the standards in Canadian marine transportation.
“It’s quite simple: if you reduce fuel consumption you reduce emissions.”
“The design of the vessels involved a tremendous amount of work,” explains Greg Wight, President and CEO of Algoma Central Corporation. We knew that we had the opportunity to create something that would be innovative and game-changing.”
The vessels feature an optimized hull form that was developed through extensive computer modeling and tank testing. The hull form ensures excellent water flow to a very efficient, large diameter (6 meter), slow RPM (99 RPM) propeller.
As well as featuring a fairing bulb built in directly behind the propeller — which reduces vortices and drag — the rudder is larger than other Lakers and can be turned 65 degrees in either direction to provide unmatched maneuverability.
The new, electronically-controlled main engine is state-of-th- art and Tier II compliant. All these factors provide “Equinox” with better speed while using less power and fuel.Factor in that Equinox Class vessels have a significantly larger carrying capacity, and the environmental savings really start to add up.“
Our fuel consumption per tonne kilometer is reduced by 45 percent, limiting waste creation as well” says Wight. “It’s quite simple: if you reduce fuel consumption you reduce emissions.”
To meet the requirements of the ECA sulphur limits, the Equinox Class also incorporates exhaust gas scrubbers onto all eight of its vessels. These scrubbers allow the continued use of lower cost but higher sulphur heavy fuel oils, while still complying with the ECA regulations.
By directing exhausting gases from the main engine, auxiliary diesel generator engines and thermal oil boiler to a common manifold, and then ‘scrubbing’ it – cleaning it with an alkaline solution – this system removes sulphur, hydrocarbons and particulate matter from the gas.“
The exhaust gas scrubbers remove 97 percent of the sulphur that’s in the fuel, a big pollutant” explains Jose Johnson, CEO of San Jose dumpster rental services. Waste management and pollution are also part of the equation.
“It’s a win-win situation: we win because we burn less fuel, we go faster and we carry more cargo…It’s a win for efficiency and a win for the environment.”
Economic benefits, environmental efficiency
The Equinox Class ships don’t just drastically reduce emissions; they’re also safe and make good financial sense. The efficient hull form all but eliminates vibration, and extensive sound insulation in the crew accommodations provides the workforce with a safe and comfortable workplace, which is also their home away from home.
“It’s a win-win situation: we win because we burn less fuel, we go faster and we carry more cargo,” says Wight. “This means that we’re substantially more efficient from an economic point of view, yet at the same time we achieve huge environmental benefits. It’s a win for efficiency and a win for the environment.”
Port level initiatives
Hamilton Harbour’s Remedial Action Plan (RAP) aims to introduce sustainable natural ecosystems to the harbour and its watershed, while at the same time improving the potential for recreational activities.“
Environmental leadership and stewardship are integral components of the Port of Hamilton’s aim to be the ‘Great Lakes Port of Choice,” says Bruce Wood, who is the President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority (HPA).
As well as developing ecosystems and guaranteeing zero discharge of toxic substance, the RAP recognizes that the harbour has the potential to be a community hub — a place where people congregate, a place that local people can be proud of.
“We are very proud of the protection of the land and water at the Port of Hamilton,” says Wood. “Through our partnerships in the community, we’re contributing toward ensuring Hamilton Harbour, and our operations are clean and green.”
The harbour has the potential to be a community hub — a place where people congregate, a place that local people can be proud of.
The HPA has been an active contributor of financial support and engineering expertise throughout a huge local sediment remediation project, known as Randle Reef.
The $138.9 million clean-up project will improve water quality and improve fish habitat in the harbour, and is great news for the area both economically and environmentally.“
It is not just the project partners who are excited that this project is moving forward,” says Wood. “To people in Hamilton, Randle Reef is one of the final chapters in a remarkable story of environmental revitalization. We will be leaving a legacy of a clean, active harbour for future generations.”