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Study: New ships less fuel efficient than those built in 1990

13 April 2015

New ships built in 2013 were on average 10% less fuel-efficient than those built in 1990, according to a study by CE Delft, commissioned by Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment. The study also showed that container ships built 30 years ago already, on average, exceeded the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) standard that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set for new ships built in 2020.

This first ever study of the historical development of the design efficiency of new ships found that bulk carriers, tankers, and container ships built in 2013 were on average 12, 8 and 8% less fuel efficient than those built in 1990, a quarter of a century ago. The current IMO efficiency standards for new ships—a 20% EEDI improvement compared with the 1999-2008 average—does little more than bring the efficiency of new ships in 2020 back to levels seen around 1990, according to the study.

Historical changes in the EEDI ship design efficiency index

The deterioration in average ship efficiency over the period of 1990-2013 stands in contrast to other transport modes, noted Transport & Environment. During the same period, the average fuel consumption for passenger cars decreased by 20%, and that for airplanes decreased by 7%.

The changes in ship efficiency are driven by changes in the cost of fuel, as well as by changes in freight rates, steel and labor costs, yard availability, and other factors. Higher fuel prices make fuel-efficient ships more attractive. However, fuel-efficient hull designs are generally more expensive to built due to higher steel and labor costs. The impact of freight rates is more complex—one mechanism is that when freight rates are high, owners queue up to order ships, lowering the incentive of shipyards for innovative design. Conversely, when freight rates are low, shipyards compete for clients and offer more efficient designs. Furthermore, only fuel-efficient ships can be operated profitably when freight rates are low.

The IMO is to review the stringency levels of its EEDI index—the efficiency standards for new ships—during a meeting of its Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) in London next month.

Source: Transport & Environment