SMI Green Maritime Survey reveals big uptick in maritime engineering firms embracing decarbonisation
The Society of Maritime Industries (SMI) is issuing the findings of its ‘Green Maritime Survey’ as the COP26 climate change summit begins in Glasgow. The survey paints a picture of positive change in the industry with 85pc actioning green initiatives, two thirds actively involved in green research and developing green technologies and 78pc running incentives for staff to lower their environmental impact. A further 78pc said the environmental agenda is impacting the way they run their business with 93pc saying their customers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of operations. However, two-thirds reported the Government is not doing enough to enable them to go green. (SEE CASE STUDIES BELOW)
SMI Chief Executive Tom Chant said the survey showed businesses are taking action ‘right here and now' and there is ‘enormous desire and passion’ in the industry to support net-zero ambitions.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the maritime engineering and science sectors and for the energy majors and primary contractors like shipbuilders to meet net-zero targets they need their supply chain to decarbonise at speed too,” he said. “This survey shows the efforts being made to innovate and adapt to meet green targets with companies both developing new products and becoming more environmentally aware in their day-to-day operations with more initiatives like recycling and cycling to work schemes.”
However, Mr Chant said barriers to going green remained such as red tape around R & D credits.
“It is brilliant to see Government giving a higher profile and greater recognition to maritime particularly in the last few years,” he said. “We also welcome the extra funding awarded by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the budget for research around the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (see notes to editors). But one message we are hearing loud and clear is the need to slash back on red tape around grants. Too often the red tape makes it too onerous for busy companies to apply for funding.”
Mr Chant said another major issue for its members is the lack of incentive to invest in decarbonising the buildings they lease.
“Many of our members want to invest in renewable energy heating sources and incentives like electric charging points but the pay-back period is often longer than their leases which are typically three to five years,” he said. “So there is reluctance to invest in ‘greening’ a building they do not own and may have to move out of. With properties being a big part of companies carbon footprint this pain point is important and requires swift Government action. We want to see more incentives for landlords and tenants to work together to green commercial properties as the desire from our members is very much there.”
Neil Wright, Vice President and Director of the “Heavy Duty Brakes Group” from Altra Motion, representing the Bedford-based manufacturer Twiflex Limited
"As a manufacturer of mechanical power transmission equipment for use on ships, wind turbines and tidal power we are at the sharp end of the industry's drive to go green. As a result, we are both proactively and reactively adapting the business to meet higher sustainable standards. Certainly, our sales team are reporting back that there is much greater customer expectation that we show our green credentials.
In response, we are actively looking to become greener. We have invested in the emerging Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), launching products this year that allow us to undertake remote monitoring and commissioning of our equipment whilst ships are drydocking. This clearly eliminates the need for an engineer to travel to site thereby eliminating the associated carbon emissions.
Our customers are reacting favourably to these new initiatives, and they appreciate this kind of carbon saving innovation. It also helps us retain the brand image for innovation and leadership in this field. In another example, we are actively looking at the design and composition of our friction materials to ensure that the wear particles are more environmentally friendly as the products are used.
Internally we are undertaking a wide range of initiatives to support the local community and to help the environment, including tree planting in Bedford, using low energy lighting at the factory and recycling of our waste streams. We have further secured the Green Flag standard for the site.
In terms of our products, we are creating new products to follow the trends in marine drives. As these drives move away from diesel drives to the more environmentally friendly hybrid electric drives, the requirements for power transmission change and accordingly our product portfolio is being redesigned to meet these new needs. Within the Heavy Duty Group we also are at the frontier of supplying the renewable sector via the major wind turbine manufacturers of the world. Our applications include Rotor Brakes, Rotor locks, Yaw systems and Cooling systems. This is a fast-growing market, especially in the offshore segment and we are well-positioned to support the forecasted growth that we see over the next decade. We have also developed new brake equipment for the specialised Heavy Lift Vessels, that are required to install these wind turbines at sea.
Do I think the Government is doing enough to support business? Unfortunately not. We have trouble securing innovation grants because our parent company is American and there is confusion as to whether we are classed as an “SME”. This seems wrong when Twiflex Limited is a company registered in the UK paying taxes and employing and training people.
We have contributed to the local community greatly in the last 15 years by doubling our workforce and we are probably the largest engineering company remaining in Bedford today. In the past, we had a local government contact that knew our business and could keep us informed of the financial help available and even help us complete the grant applications. Replacing these Local contacts, with knowledgeable people who have business experience would be helpful in resolving this issue. For now, we have given up pursuing grants based on past experiences.”
Andy Smerdon, managing director of Aquatec Group, a specialist in subsea instrumentation design based in Basingstoke, said:
"We are seeing a big change in mindset in the offshore industry. Covid provided a time for reflection for the oil and gas majors and there is now a strong sentiment to switch to renewables faster and move away from fossil fuels. For Aquatec that means that when we pitch for work, the environmental expectations are much tougher. The customers are saying they have this net-zero target, but to achieve it we, as the supplier, have to be sustainable in our operations and so too do our suppliers. So we are now looking more intently at sustainability in both our processes and our products. For example, at end of life we must ensure our products are carefully disposed of to avoid batteries, for example, being dumped carelessly, and to recycle other materials. We are also developing products that slash back on the need to use expensive and carbon-heavy ships for survey work.
This includes one of Aquatec’s new products, the KINEKtron, which is a subsea strain-monitoring clamp. The KINEKtron includes a subsea communication system to enable equipment to be dropped directly overboard from an offshore energy producing platform to retrieve vital operational data, rather than requiring a ship and a ROV to be sailed out to the platform. This kind of innovation saves operational costs and cuts emissions, showing that going green can save money too, but we do need the Government's support to develop these products in the first place.
The UK is a world centre of excellence in marine science and that requires greater Government support with easy-to-access R & D tax credits, which strip out the red tape so we can innovate and access funding without the burden of excessive paperwork. In addition, much more focus is required to help businesses convert their premises to being more environmentally friendly. At present if you lease your building, as many SMEs do, the lease is likely to be three to five years. There is therefore little incentive to invest our money in a landlord-owned property to improve the carbon footprint of the building without any guaranteed return on investment. This is a big issue that needs to be tackled if SMEs are going to invest in measures such as electric charging points or alternative sources of heating where the payback period may be 10 or more years."
A Babcock spokesperson said:
“Babcock is committed to creating a safe and secure world, together by focusing on minimising the impact of our operations on the environment, ensuring the safety of our people and creating a positive impact in the communities we operate. This is very much at the heart of our sustainability agenda.”
“In May 2021, we launched Plan Zero 40, our commitment to transition Babcock to a net-zero emissions organisation across all of our estate, assets and operations by 2040. We have also signed up to the Business Ambition for 1.5°C Pledge to limit global warming in line with the Paris Agreement and recently published our Carbon Reduction plan.”
“A good example of this is Babcock working in partnership to deliver a project to support the transition to zero-carbon fuels for the Shetland Islands’ maritime industry with support from the UK Government’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC). The project is part of the CMDC, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK. Babcock will, along with partners develop a desk-based decision modelling and support system tool.”
“This allows us to share our long-standing, global expertise in ship design, future fuels and technologies to ensure that vessel owners and operations in the marine sector select the optimum sustainable solution.”
Terry Sloane managing director of Planet Ocean, a scientific ocean instrument equipment supplier and manufacturer, said:
"Internally we are committed to converting the business to a greener model. We are accredited to the ISO14001 environmental standard. As part of this, we encourage, for example, 100pc awareness of our carbon footprint when travelling. All staff are advised to reduce travel, use rail ahead of air and set up video conferencing instead of visits and work from home. As part of the ISO process, we also reviewed how we can more efficiently use office heating and power as well as limit water use. We are also moving to a paper-free sales process with everything done electronically and stored in the cloud, rather than in filing cabinets.
In the industry, we are seeing a big shift in the scientific ocean equipment sector for green solutions expected by Governments and energy majors in tenders. As a result in 2016 Planet Ocean launched a sister company ecoSUB Robotics to exploit the concept developed jointly with the National Oceanography Centre. ecoSUB is a manufacturer of a new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) we call the 'son of Boaty McBoatface', the AUV used on the RRS SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH polar ship. The ecoSUB AUV immediately saves carbon as it does not require a large ship to launch it. It can be launched from a coastal position or from a wind, wave or solar-powered autonomous vessel.
It can further undertake a wide variety of eco-related research to a depth of 2500 metres deep including pollution, seabed and habitat impact surveys and acoustic noise studies. And critically its cost is massively less than a high-end AUV like Boaty which costs more than £1million whereas ecoSUB's AUV is more like £10,000. This means ecoSUB can be used more widely and the efficiency of data collection is far greater as multiple AUVs can be used simultaneously.
We are really at the tip of the iceberg with this technology and we are now actively undertaking a new research project with funding from UK Research and Innovation to work with the National Oceanography Centre, Sonardyne and Royal Holloway College. This project aims to develop technology so AUVs & USV’s from different manufacturers can cooperate supercharging the sharing of data. At present autonomous vehicles from different manufacturers do not 'talk' easily to each other. The more we solve this difficulty the more widely platforms of all types can be used together as a 'shoal' and the more we drive down the need for carbon-emitting vessels to undertake survey work."
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