Shipbuilding: Innovative Technologies for a Sustainable Future
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Maritime transport can be considered a fundamental pillar of the global economy; however, its environmental impact raises significant concerns. Sustainability in this sector is undoubtedly an important goal for the international community but equally complex to achieve.
As highlighted in the annual report by Transport & Environment, merchant ships, as well as cruise and luxury tourism vessels, are significant sources of pollution due to high emissions of sulfur oxides and carbon dioxide. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) laid the groundwork against maritime pollution with the “International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships” (MARPOL), adopted on November 2, 1973. The aim was to prevent and minimize pollution caused by ships, whether accidental or from routine operations.
Fifty years after its adoption, during World Maritime Day 2023, the IMO Secretary-General sent a clear and unequivocal message about the maritime sector’s future: “Maritime transport must embrace decarbonization, digitalization, and innovative technology, including automation, to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations.”
Among the international measures already implemented, in June 2021, the IMO adopted resolution MEPC.328(76), effective from 2022, introducing the “Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index” (EEXI). This index sets emission limits for harmful gases from January 1, 2023, in compliance with MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 19, for all ships weighing over 400 tons. In practice, ships will receive an energy efficiency rating (A, B, C, D, E) based on the fuel used.
With the industry undergoing profound transformation, shipyards aim to invest in engineering and technology companies to achieve sustainability goals, maximizing their performance by:
- Implementing energy management systems through intelligent technologies that control and regulate consumption, thus maximizing operational efficiency.
- Integrating renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines to further reduce the environmental impact of ships.
- Adopting increasingly advanced exhaust gas treatment systems, using technologies like marine scrubbers and catalysts to minimize harmful emissions released into the atmosphere and oceans.
- Innovation sought by shipyards extends not only to technical components but also to the design of vessels. Designing more aerodynamic ships with optimized hulls is crucial to reducing hydrodynamic resistance and improving fuel efficiency.
A clear example of the ongoing radical change is Fincantieri’s acquisition agreement for 100% of Remazel Engineering S.p.A.’s shares, currently held by Advanced Technology Industrial Group S.A. With the closing expected by the end of 2024, Fincantieri aims to enhance its technological and engineering capabilities in offshore and subsea sectors, maintaining its role as a leader and strategic partner throughout the vessel’s lifecycle.
Giants like Dassault Systèmes and Samsung Heavy Industries also sign a memorandum of understanding to enhance the use of new technologies in ship design. The digital transformation of shipyards will undoubtedly accelerate the production and assembly processes, reducing consumption through the creation of more efficient and environmentally friendly vessels.
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