The logistics disruptors helping tackle maritime GHG woes

As IMO's new maritime GHG targets spark controversy, we look at how logistics tech disruptors like ZeroNorth are coming to the rescue

In the wake of controversial new global maritime industry greenhouse gas (GHG) measures, the focus on sustainability in the sea shipping sector is more intense than ever.

Talks to tackle maritime GHG emissions were last week slammed by environmentalists as “disheartening” and “tepid”.

That response came after it emerged that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set a revised target of a 10% reduction of GHG by 2030, with the earliest measures to achieve this not being put in place until 2027. 

The furore sparked by this announcement has turned the spotlight on the maritime sector's colossal GHG emissions, which account for 3% of emissions globally -- similar to that of Germany, a country of 83 million people.

It is not just cleaner fuels the world wants to see sea shipping companies turn to, but also greater fuel efficiency. On that note, McKinsey spoke last week with a senior executive from exactly the sort of tech business that is helping on this front.

Copenhagen-based start-up ZeroNorth uses advanced analytics to help vessels cross oceans more efficiently. The company says it helped prevent more than 440,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted by its customers’ ships last year, using optimised routing in response to weather conditions. Its solutions also monitor the performance of key components such as propellers and hulls. 

Pelle Sommansson, ZeroNorth COO, told McKinsey that the company's modus operandi is to “listen to insight from captains and crews and attempt to transform an industry that is sometimes resistant to change”.

Sommansson added: “We started with six people and a little bit of code, and now we support 150 customers and have 4,000 vessels on our platform.” 

Logistics disruptors key to cutting sea shipping GHGs

Sommansson was speaking to McKinsey as part of a series of interviews called ‘Logistics Disruptors’.

He says the way to make global trade green is “to make insights concrete and actionable”, adding that the aim has to be not only to drive down emissions but also “creating commercial opportunities, benefiting both profits and the planet”.

ZeroNorth launched three years ago with a product focused on speed optimisation for ships. 

“We quickly realised that wasn’t enough,” says Sommansson, “so we developed a full weather-routing service to help plan ship routes around weather forecasts”. 

Today, ZeroNorth offers an AI-enabled fuel model that can create a digital twin of any given vessel. 

“It’s able to predict with high accuracy the fuel consumption of the vessel at any given speed, at any given RPM, with any given draft, in any weather, at any point around the world,” explains Sommansson. 

He adds: “We also have a product that measures the efficiency of various vessel components, such as the hull, the propeller, the boiler, and the auxiliary engine, to more identify action ways to improve the performance.”

The company is, in short, changing the way the maritime sector goes about tackling emissions, because it understood that to create efficiency it needed to address the auxiliary services surrounding each service on a single platform.

“Once we tie data flows and insights together there is a network effect whereby the services feed into one another,” Sommansson says. 

Cutting maritime GHGs 'down to changing behaviours'

He adds: “ When you have a good fuel model, you’re better at predicting the consumption of a voyage. When you have good voyage routing, you can better understand the condition of waters that the vessel has been in.

“In the past, companies typically used a plethora of different applications, but we can deliver a single source of truth on a fleet’s consumption, conditions, positions, availability, and weather.”

The maritime industry’s journey to net zero will be long and challenging, of that there can be little doubt. But at least an ever-expanding tech ecosystem – filled with businesses like ZeroNorth – are on hand to steer it in the right direction.


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