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2023 - the year it got serious

29 December 2023

In April, the inclusion of shipping in the EU ETS was approved, in June the IMO tightened its climate goals and in August the Swedish media reported an acute shortage of seafarers. The latter was in line with a Lighthouse report that was published in May and which determined that significantly more Swedish maritime officers need to be educated. 2023 was again a year when Lighthouse's operations were well in phase with what is going on in shipping. Here follows a selection of what we have done.

When it comes to maritme research and innovation, a lot is about the decarbonization of the shipping industry. It’s easy to understand. Compared to other industries, for example the automotive industry where electrification has become a matter of course, shipping is still wavering between several different alternative fuels. Electricity is one of them, but is only considered suitable for shorter distances because the batteries become too large and heavy for longer distances.

At the beginning of February, however, a report from Lighthouse actually showed that a cargo ship with around 60 40-foot containers would be able to run on electricity between Skellefteå and Södertälje - a distance of 560 miles! The idea is that the concept could be used for a cargo route with a departure once a week.

“This means that you can have a relatively low average speed, which makes electrification possible even if the distance is long. The ship needs to be at the quay for 12 hours to load and unload. That gives enough time to recharge the batteries, Sara Rogersson, researcher at Rise Maritime”, said at the time of publication.

During 2023, there has otherwise been a lot of talk in the international shipping press about ammonia and methanol as the fuels of the future, at least for ships that will cross the world's oceans. “It points to ammonia or methanol”, Chalmers researcher Selma Brynolf also said, in connection with the publication of the report Hydrogen, ammonia, and battery-electric propulsion for future shipping in December. Unlike in much other research, the fuels in the three-year research project have been analyzed from a life cycle perspective where the entire production chain and infrastructure are included. The research project - which not only made it possible for Swedish research to keep up with developments, but also gave Sweden the chance to contribute to the IMO's development of its guidelines for life cycle analyzes - has been carried out within the framework of the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Hållbar sjöfart (Sustainable Shipping), which is run by Lighthouse.

Within Sustainable Shipping, several new projects were started at the same time as others were completed. These were presented during the year in a total of 14 popular science articles on the Lighthouse website and deal with everything from both hubless propellers and propellers to the sailing freighters of the future to carbon dioxide capture on board and the sustainable port. Several of the results were also presented at the industry program's annual conference in March.

Alongside Sustainable Shipping, two further reports dealing with current issues have been published. In May, the preliminary study Future needs of naval officers came out, which showed that over 200 students a year need to be recruited to the sea captain program to cover the future need for naval officers - something we are nowhere near today. An equal number also need to be recruited to the marine engineering program.

The fact that the situation is urgent on the personnel side in shipping could hardly escape anyone who took part in Swedish news at the end of August – 2,200 people need to be recruited for shipping in the next three years, otherwise the Swedish economy will be affected. Behind the news was a report from Transportföretagen.

By the way, Transportföretagen have become members of Lighthouse during the year through the trade and employer organization Sveriges Hamnar. It is the first time that an organization representing port operations is included among all Lighthouse members from industry, academia, institutes and society. For the first time, the classification societies are also stepping in – both DNV and Bureau Veritas became members during the year.

The second Lighthouse report published outside the industry program is briefly called Kunskapsunderlag för fossilfri sjöfart (Knowledge base for fossil-free shipping). The document has been produced within the framework of the Lighthouse focus group Fossilfri sjöfart (Fossil-free shipping) and is largely based on previous studies, but also contains new analyzes and compilations. The material is intended to be updated later and be available to everyone in the focus group or to researchers working with the transition in general. Therefore, the material has also been given its own page on the Lighthouse web.

During the year, Lighthouse also continued the work in the focus groups Hamnar (Ports) and Smarta fartyg (Smart ships). In the work (which was initiated in 2020), relevant actors from academia, industry and authorities gather to work together on important issues and areas to drive them forward.

Lighthouse has also arranged several seminar days in 2023. In March, as I said, the annual conference of sustainable shipping took place and in the same month AI i sjöfartens tjänst (AI in service of shipping) was also arranged. In connection with the Almedal week at the end of June, a hydrogen gas seminar was arranged together with Uppsala University in Visby and during the autumn two further joint arrangements were made - in October Så blir den nationella flottan blir grön (How the national fleet goes green) together with the Swedish Maritime Administration and in November Öva inför kris (Practicing for a crisis) together with Halmstad University.

Lighthouse operations manager Åsa Burman has also participated as a moderator and speaker in a number of contexts, including at the eComExpo that was arranged in Stockholm in September, where she explained that shipping is an important part of society's transition.

- Every time I'm here in Stockholm I think: Why don't you use the water more? In Gothenburg, where I live, we don't use water very much either. We have a river that is basically empty and in Stockholm there is as much water as you want to build roads around. It is clear that it is possible to move a lot of transport from road to shipping, which is often much more energy efficient.

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