20 Ways for Seafarers to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint on Ships

It is statistically proven that shipping, which is exclusively responsible for the transportation of 90% of goods in bulk globally, is the least environmentally harmful mode of transport.  When the productivity factor is taken in account and on comparison to land based industries, shipping is a relatively minor contributor of environment pollutants and has smaller carbon footprint.

It is also clear that the newly integrated Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEEMP’s) are solely proposed to improve the energy efficiency of ship operations worldwide. But despite all efforts taken by maritime organisations and marine environmental protection agencies, effects of marine pollution and carbon footprint are on the rise by inefficient ship operations and marine human activities.

ship bridge

A carbon footprint is counted as a unit measure of carbon dioxide emissions associated with an entity’s activity. Direct emissions from ships such as SOx and NOx are one of the many reasons leading to air marine environment pollution.  Climate change is the most affected due to increased gas emissions globally. Research has shown that many Earth’s species are headed for extinction in nearly 40 years if the climate changes increase at current rate.

Effects on the Eco-System

Global warming with rise in temperatures and the shift in precipitation patterns is evident. Melting ice, longer summers and rising sea levels are getting increasingly apparent. This is resulting in the destruction of the ecosystem by way of the erosion of the world’s coastal cities, towns and shorelines, vegetation shift due to increasing temperatures, threatened wildlife, migration of several species and grave danger to human health. Malnutrition has increased and is caused by result of the climate change on food crops. Drought, diseases and other health hazards have increased many folds. As a result of such increasing hazards and carbon footprint, there is a significant loss to the economies which are dependent on land and sea-based natural resources.

Considering all the above mentioned factors, it is imperative that shipping industry makes its own contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and carbon footprint. Though initiatives such as carbon emission fee and energy efficiency management have been taken, there is a lot to be done by the industry and the seafarers towards harmful effects of dredging, marine debris , coral reef destruction ,noise pollution,ocean dumping etc.

sailing ship

In order to reduce the carbon footprint, seafarers should take an active part in efficient ship operations. Ship owners should infuse the energy management culture on board their fleet and implement pollution controlling technologies progressively with changing times.

Below are a few steps that the seafarers can take to to reduce their carbon footprints

1. Speed and Route Planning Optimization

Speed selection and Optimized route planning ( Read our FREE eBook on slow steaming)

The need to follow weather routing, well identified speed optimization measures and voyages that would lessen the ecological impact should be encompassed.

2. Use Proper Auto-Pilot Settings

Use optimized Auto-Pilot settings for minimal fuel burn out.

3. Allow Adequate Trim to Minimize Resistance

Keep minimum resistance while on a voyage by allowing adequate trim.

4. Ensure Efficiency Stability and Steering

For stability and steering, ballast water management and effective cargo planning should be considered to meet the requirements for efficient ship handling.

5. Carefully Monitor the Propeller Slip and Hull Condition

Excessive Sea growth on the hull which results in excessive fuel burn should be prevented as much as possible by regularizing the dry-docking periods, liberal application of paints that are proven to be ecologically safe, and other anti-fouling technologies.


ship engine

6. Optimization of Ship Generators

  • Maximize D/G load whenever safe and possible to do so
  • Switch off / Stop all non-essential machineries and equipment while at port or when at sea to reduce the load on the generators
  • Keep a check on unnecessary usage of compressed air on deck and engine room. This will avoid continuous running of the air compressors
  • Make sure the IG Plant is shut down as soon as the operations are over.
  • Identify and reduce the use of heavy electrical consumers
  • Use the cargo and provision cranes judiciously
  • Deck and navigation lighting should be made available as and when required, avoid pointless usage
  • Use the principle of gravity for ballasting / de-ballasting operations where feasible

7. Optimization of the Machinery 

8. Boiler and Steam load

  • Monitor steam leakages from plants.  Check steam traps regularly. Check of steam hammering
  • Check oxygen analyzer and the piping system for any failures prior to critical operations
  • Ensure that all the steam and oil lines are in operational condition
  • Regulate use of hot water calorifier between steam and electrical heating
  • Use composite boiler at every applicable occasion including cargo heating
  • As far as practical run one boiler up to 80% load before putting second boiler on load.
  • Shut down Auxiliary boiler if they are not needed for a practical amount of time
  • Open up steam for mooring winches only when required
  • Ensure efficient use of heat recovery systems of ships

9. Exhaust Gas Economizer (EGE)

  • To improve the energy efficiency of the exhaust gas boiler, the frequency of soot blowing and blow down should be increased
  • Keep the composite boiler exhaust side clean. This will in turn keep the tube surfaces dirt-free
  • Schedule water washing to be as regularly as practicable for the EGE (Exhaust Gas Economizer) (Check important points for boiler cleaning)
  • Proper recordings for pressure drop and temperature differences should be done. This will provide as an indication for EGE cleanliness

10. Windlass and Mooring Winches

mooring winches

  • Post all mooring and anchoring operations, switch off power for winches and windlasses
  • Do not keep Hydraulic motors running unnecessarily
  • Check for leakages in the hydraulic lines and eliminate them to ensure proper and efficient functioning of the equipment and the machinery
  • In port, run the winches only when required

11. In Port and at Anchorage Operations

  • Blowers for pump room and other such spaces should be stopped when not required
  • Pumps such as ballast pumps, fire pumps should not be run unnecessarily
  • After finishing with the main engine – switch off lube oil pump, cam shaft pump, etc.

12. Cargo Loading and Unloading Operations

  • During the cargo discharging operations, maintain better co-ordination and planning with the terminal personnel such as the loading masters, terminal representatives, etc. and also with the deck and engine personnel on board. Safe cargo operations will in turn reduce the idle firing period of the main boilers, reduce unnecessary and prolonged cargo pump warming up period, idle running of the IG plant, etc. (Find out all important and practical points on cargo operations on tanker in our eBook – The Ultimate Guide to Cargo Operations on Tankers.)
  • Maintain optimum Inert Gas pressures throughout the cargo operations
  • Maintain trim and stability in order to prevent pointless load on the machinery
  • The use of the Ballast educators to be optimized
  • Switch off power for the cargo cranes when not required

ship galley

13. Lighting on board

  • Use the lighting system on board effectively. Exercise due care to avoid creation of additional safety and security hazards when turning off the electrical services
  • Switch off all the internal lights for areas such as cabins, recreation rooms, mess rooms, common spaces, etc. when not required
  • It is advised to use halogen or sodium vapor lamps for lighting purposes
  • Make efficient use of the ship’s AC by closing all doors, blinding off ship portholes during day, etc.

14. Conserve Energy in Galley

While working in Galley, make sure the hotplate is used in a controlled and regulated manner such that the hot plates are not kept switched ON after actual use.

15. Efficient Use of Ship’s Laundry

Ship’s laundry should be used appropriately such that the output is more and energy used is less. Use appropriate settings on the washing machines and dryers that are suitable for the kind of clothes to be washed and dried.

16. Save Paper

Conserve the use of paper and its products on board. Minimize to eco – printing techniques.

17. Repair Leakage 

Repair leaking fresh water taps and pipelines that are used for domestic consumption.

18.Optimize Cargo and Bunker Tank Heating

 ship lights

Cargo and Bunker Tank Heating should be optimized by monitoring the temperature and consumption patterns of the tanks. Also periodic inspection should be undertaken of the fittings such as sounding pipes and bunker tank vents for leakages and cracks so as to prevent contamination and thereby damaging the environment. (Learn how to efficiently use cargo operation equipment on tankers in our eBook – The Ultimate Guide to Cargo Operation Equipment on Tankers. )

19. Regular Transfer of Slops and Oily Residues Ashore

Transfer of slops and oily residues ashore should be carried out at regular intervals to prevent residue build up and also reduce the use of diesel burnt for operating the incinerators. Remember to minimize the water in sludge by settling and thereby draining prior slop transfer or incineration.

20. Efficient Handling of Engine Room and Deck Machinery

Efficient handling of engine room and deck machinery is extremely important to prevent unnecessary wastage of energy. Seafarers must know the right starting and stopping procedures of all machinery on ships in order to reduce break down and improve the overall efficiency of the ship.

Two important guides to learn starting and stopping procedures of all important machinery systems of ships:

1. The Ultimate Guide to Deck Machinery Procedures and Operations

2. The Ultimate Guide to Operating Procedures for Engine Room Machinery

Of course there is a lot more seafarers can do to reduce the damaging effects of pollution on marine environment and reduce their carbon footprint. Though the above mentioned list is not an exhaustive one, taking such small initiatives in daily routine work on ships can help a great deal in saving a lot of energy and reducing carbon emissions.

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