(EnergyAsia, January 18 2011, Tuesday) — The following is an edited version of the speech delivered by Lam Yi Young, chief executive of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) at the Sustainable Marine Transportation Conference 2011. Held yesterday, the event was jointly organised by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Singapore, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Business Association.

“While shipping has significant environmental impact, it is also important to view this in the proper perspectives.

“Shipping is the cornerstone of global trade and the life blood of the world’s economy. More than 90% of the world’s trade are carried by ships and the map on the screen shows just how dense the world’s shipping network is.

“Shipping affects every aspect of our lives. The importance of shipping can be seen from the significant growth in seaborne trade – from just over 8,000 billion tonne-miles in 1968 to over 32,000 billion tonne-miles in 2008.

“Given the need to move cargoes around the world, shipping is the most efficient form of cargo transport in terms of carbon dioxide emission per tonne-kilometre. Trucks emit three times more carbon dioxide than cargo ships and aircraft emit some 36 times more.

“Environmental challenges are some of the most critical challenges facing the industry today. The size and scale of shipping also often means that shipping has significant environmental impact in absolute terms even if it is comparatively “green”.

“The maritime community has over the years worked together through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to put in place various conventions to deal with these challenges. The work is however an ongoing process.”

“As a small island state adjacent to one of the world’s most important maritime passageways, Singapore is acutely aware of the environmental impact of shipping. The Straits of Malacca and Singapore are estimated to support some one-third of world trade and half of the world’s oil flows.

“In 2007, there were more than 250,000 vessel movements in the narrow Singapore Strait just south of Singapore. As one of the busiest ports in the world, the Port of Singapore also welcomes some 130,000 vessel calls a year.

“With the increasing size of ships, the ships calling at Singapore reached 1.92 billion gross tonnes last year.
“In 2010, the port handled some 500 million tonnes of cargo, including 28.4 million TEUs of container traffic. Bunker sales totalled 40.9 million tonnes, the highest of any port in the world.

“Singapore has a total land area of only some 710 square kilometres. Our port facilities must coexist in close proximity with homes, offices, factories and recreational facilities.

Our coast lines and our coastal waters are scarce resources that have to be shared for different purposes.

“We need to cater for port facilities, anchorage space, waterfront living, marine environment protection, recreation. Despite being home to one of the world’s busiest ports, we are also home to over 250 species of hard corals, a quarter of the world’s species. We are also home to 31 true mangrove plant species, which is two-thirds of that found in Asia, and 12 of the 23 Indo-Pacific species of seagrass.

“Protecting the marine environment and managing the environmental impact of shipping is priority even as we develop our port to meet the needs of our economy.

“The MPA works in partnership with the industry and other stakeholders to facilitate environmentally-friendly shipping and port activities.

“Given the international nature of shipping, it is vital that there be international co-operation and international agreements towards meeting the environmental challenges of shipping.

“Singapore is a firm supporter of the IMO. As a council member, Singapore participates actively in IMO’s work in all areas, particularly in meeting environmental challenges. Our support of IMO’s work on the environment is evidenced by Singapore being one of the few Asian countries to have acceded to all six annexes of the MARPOL Convention, the primary IMO instrument for the prevention of pollution from ships. Singapore is also party to other IMO Conventions on environmental protection.”

“We have also been working closely with other IMO member states to address the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions from ships. We contributed to the development of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and the Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI), both measures intended to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

“Singapore firmly believes that the IMO is the most appropriate body to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from ships and will continue to work with the IMO and its member states to chart the way forward on this issue.

“At the regional level, Singapore works with the other littoral states of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, namely Indonesia and Malaysia, through various mechanisms related to environmental protection.

“The three states have in place the Revolving Fund, established in 1981 with funding support from the Malacca Strait Council. They can draw cash advances from the fund for use in combating oil pollution caused by ships. The littoral states also co-operate in combating oil pollution under the auspices of the Revolving Fund Committee. These help to ensure swift action in the event of oil spills so as to minimise impact on the environment.

“Another key initiative is the Co-operative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The mechanism, launched in September 2007, involves both littoral states and user states of the Straits.

“In Singapore, MPA works closely with the industry, universities, research institutions and other government agencies in three areas.

“The first relates to understanding the impact and challenges through studies and assessments. MPA conducted a study on air emission from shipping and port activities to gain a better understanding of the impact on ambient air quality.

“The second area relates to regulatory measures to ensure compliance with environmental regulations as well as incentives to encourage environmentally responsible and environmentally friendly practices.

“The third area is building and preparing for the future. Research and development is a key cornerstone in this area. MPA has in place a S$100 million Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund to support maritime research and development. A key focus area is clean and green technology.

“In 2010, MPA set up three new research programmes to help generate more R&D projects in maritime environment and clean energy. The $15 million Maritime Clean Energy Research Programme with the Nanyang Technological University focuses on finding solutions for green port and shipping. Ten research projects have been approved under the programme since its launch last February.

“The second is the MPA-DNV Maritime Environment & Clean Energy Technologies Programme where MPA and DNV will jointly fund projects in collaboration with institutions of higher learning, research centres and the industry.

“The third is the S$6 million MPA-Temasek Polytechnic Maritime Fuel Cell Research Initiative for projects to yield improvements and breakthroughs in the use of fuel cell and related technologies in the maritime industry.

“MPA has been actively supporting R&D projects to help find solutions to the environmental challenges facing shipping and port activities. The first example is the CSNOx System developed by Ecospec Global Technology, a home grown technology company.

This is an emission abatement system to remove sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide from ships’ exhaust in a single process.

“MPA is supporting its test bedding as part of the process for the CSNOx System to be approved by the IMO. The first set of results, as verified by ABS, has been encouraging. The test, conducted onboard a 100,000-tonne oil tanker, showed that the CSNOx System was able to remove 99% of sulphur dioxide, 77% of carbon dioxide and 66% of nitrogen oxides from the ship’s exhaust.

“MPA is also supporting the Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering in conducting R&D into biocracking of heavy fuel oil using biological catalysts, such as bacteria, fungi and enzymes, to break down the heavy carbon chains into simpler chains to form distillates.  The conventional cracking process utilises high temperature, high pressure, and sometimes expensive catalysts, and in the process emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. Researchers are currently developing and optimising the methodology for the culture of micro organisms and the biocracking process.

“We also supported researchers from the National University of Singapore in developing a ballast water treatment technology that uses chlorine generated on-site. This technology requires much lower energy and a smaller footprint than currently available systems. The R&D work has been successfully concluded and the researchers have set up a company to commercialise the technology. The technology has also been submitted to IMO for basic approval.

“As part of our efforts in promoting environmentally-friendly shipping and to explore alternative fuel sources for ships, MPA has embarked on a joint industry project with DNV Technology Centre to assess the market for LNG as marine fuel.

“With its low sulphur content and abundant availability, LNG has the potential to be an environmentally friendly and viable alternative to marine fuel oil and marine gas oil, particularly for short sea hauls.

“With Singapore developing an LNG terminal and pushing for cleaner fuel for ships, this project is will help us evaluate the potential for developing LNG bunkering services in Singapore.