Energy Demand in Shipping

Energy Demand in Shipping
28th November 2016 Alison Parker



Analysis of high frequency Automated Identification System (AIS) big data to understand trends and drivers of shipping energy demand and emissions


The key research questions that drive the work in this project are:

  1. What has the impact of the global recession been on shipping energy demand?
  2. What are the key interventions used to reduce energy demand in ships, what is the relationship between technical and operational energy efficiency, and their impact on energy demand?
  3. Is there a demand and a premium for energy efficient ships?

Key findings/implications on research question 1:

  • Shipping energy demand reduced during the recession, predominantly due to slow steaming;
  • Some ships, however, saw increased energy intensity during this period due to running with spare capacity and through being under-utilised (i.e. reduced efficiency);
  • With expectations of global demand growth outstripping the rate of energy efficiency improvement, the work has direct relevance to ongoing regulatory debates, particularly on GHG emissions.

Key findings/implications on research question 2:

  • A survey of 275 shipping companies showed that only a few technical energy efficiency measures were being implemented at scale in the shipping fleet
  • Operational intensity of ships shows a large variation between ships of the same type and size, especially in the smaller sized ships
  • The above show that there exists a significant potential to reduce energy demand in majority of the shipping fleet

Key findings/implications on research question 3:

  • There is little to no evidence of a preference for ships with better GHG Ratings (a proxy for energy efficiency) detected in time charter rates in the period 2005-2015.
  • Furthermore, there isn’t a significant difference is observed in terms of productivity (time spent loaded and number of loaded voyages, for example) for ships with better GHG Ratings

Impact, Influence & Outreach

Key outreach activities to non-academic audiences were through our engagement with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) through leading the Third IMO GHG Study 2014, which defines the data used by the industry for the next five years. This study was presented to UN Member States and NGOs at IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting and to UNFCCC COP Lima by the IMO Secretariat. A follow on study, commissioned by the IMO, was also submitted to the 68th IMO MEPC.

Another key policy impact was our work on identifying various proxies for operational energy intensity for Royal Belgian Shipowner Association fleet, which has also been presented at the 69th IMO MEPC.

Using the methodology developed for the Third IMO GHG Study 2014 and AIS data, the group in collaboration with visualisation experts Kiln launched, which estimates emissions from five different ship types and displays this in an interactive map. Funded by the European Climate Foundation, the map plots 250 million data points to show the movements of the world’s commercial shipping fleet over the course of the year 2012.

In collaboration with Carbon War Room the research to date has used AIS data to investigate whether energy efficiency can avoid stranded ship assets.

Research Lead

Tristan Smith


Nishatabbas Rehmatulla (UCL Energy Institute)
Solmaz Haji Hosseinloo (UCL Energy Institute)
Vishnu Prakash (UCL Energy Institute)

International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
Carbon War Room (CWR)
Norwegian School of Economics (NHH)