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Synergy infopacks spotlight breakthroughs in green waterborne transport

15 May 2024

Container ship in port. Image credit: no author via pixabay 15/5/2024As the EU strives to become the world's first carbon-neutral continent under the European Green Deal, reducing the environmental footprint of waterborne transport is essential. But achieving this while maintaining a modern, competitive shipping industry is a delicate balancing act.

Making waves for sustainability

Waterborne transport is a vital economic engine for Europe, accounting for 77% of the continent's external trade and 35% of trade between EU member states. However, this crucial sector is also a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for 13.5% of all transport-related emissions in Europe.

That's where EU-funded research and innovation projects come in. The new CORDIS Synergy Info Pack ‘Waterborne Transport for a Green Future’ highlights 13 pioneering initiatives that are helping make the sector more sustainable and efficient. Supported by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive (CINEA), the toolkits highlight synergies between projects funded under various EU programmes – including Horizon EuropeHorizon 2020LIFECEF TransportEMFF and the Innovation Fund. A few of these are explored in more depth below.

Wind-powered cargo ships

One promising solution featured in the info pack is wind-assisted propulsion for cargo vessels. The Orcelle project is developing innovative vertical ‘wing’ sails that can harness wind energy to propel large ships. These wings are being installed on two demonstrator ships and could reduce emissions by over 50% compared to conventional engines, or even 100% in ideal wind conditions.

Similarly, the SustainSea project is integrating bound4blue's eSAIL suction sail system into maritime transport vessels. Five ships will be outfitted with the 22-meter high eSAILs, with the goal of cutting over 14,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions in just the first three years.

Synthetic fuels from captured emissions

Another path to decarbonisation highlighted in the info pack is producing sustainable synthetic fuels from captured emissions. The FReSMe project has created a method to capture CO2 from steel plants and recycle it into green methanol fuel for powering ships.

The POSEIDON project is similarly developing technologies to valorise CO2 from waste streams into synthetic methanol to be used as a marine fuel, aiming to deploy the system at major European ports following testing.

Clearing the way for a sustainable future

As the info pack underscores, the ambitious goal of making waterborne transport more environmentally friendly requires a multipronged approach. From wind-assisted propulsion and sustainable synthetic fuels to electric shore power and improved infrastructure, the cutting-edge projects profiled are pioneering the path to a greener future for a sector vital to Europe's economic prosperity.

By fostering these innovative solutions, the EU is working to sustain waterborne transport as both an engine for trade and a leader in emissions reduction. As the world looks to curb transport emissions, CINEA-supported initiatives like these will help keep the shipping industry competitive while charting a course toward a carbon-neutral tomorrow.

For more information

CINEA initiative to support green investments

CORDIS Synergy Info Packs

European Green Deal