Maritime Emissions: Continuous monitoring - Correct numbers paves the way for carbon pricing and ESG transparency

International shipping is one of the major contributors to global Green House Gas emissions. International waters cannot continue to be a "free port" for emissions control. It is time for action. The major intergovernmental organisations like the International Maritime Organization, IMO and the European Union are upping their efforts to make change happen.

Transporting goods across the oceans contributes at least 940 million metric tones of CO2yearly, according to the European commission. That amounts to 75 times the emissions from the Norwegian oil and gas production or 20 times the Norwegian yearly national emissions.

In its first instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report published on August 9th 2021, the IPCC draws a gloomy picture of the future for the planet. Overwhelming evidence of the physical science basis for climate change is presented.


The UNEP emissions gap report of 2020 concludes that substantial emission reduction from shipping is crucial to be consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goals. Green House Gas emissions must peak as soon as possible, and the reduction rate afterwards must be steep. Decarbonization needs to be implemented despite  high costs.

The international maritime industry is in agreement that Market Based Measures (MBM) are needed to force a change and that these must be global to be compatible with the international nature of the shipping industry.  

IMO requirements 

Following the IMO Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions and the IMO MEPC77 meetings held towards the end of 2021 it is clear that IMO's strategy to reduce GHG emissions continues.  

There is a strong indication that carbon pricing as an MBM will be concretized and be part of the IMO mid-term measures. This may come into play from the middle of this decade.

EU requirements

In 2021 the European Commission published a proposal in the frame of EU Fit for 55 and FuelEU Maritime initiative  to regulate and mandate the use of renewable and low carbon fuels in the maritime sector. The proposal includes a maximum yearly GHG intensity and an aggressive stepwise reduction in the maximum yearly intensity towards year 2050. The proposal is expected to be in place by 2024 and requirements taking effect from 2025. Maritime Emissions will also be included in the EU Emissions Trading System, ETS.    

The Fuel-EU Maritime proposal for GHG intensity reporting takes a Well to Wake, lifecycle approach, where emissions are reported as "Well to Tank" plus "Tank to Wake". Tank to Wake includes both CO2eq emissions form the combustion process as well as fugitive emission.

Reporting will be included in the existing Thetis MRV Information System  

Clydebank declaration and coZEV

More than 20 countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Norway and the USA, have signed the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors. The Cargo owners for Zero Emission Shipping initiative is a collaboration platform for freight customers to use their brand and market power to accelerate the maritime decarbonization.

Both initiatives support the establishment of green shipping corridors – zero-emission maritime routes between 2 or more ports.

Transition financing

Sustainable financing have proved effective in driving transition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar in recent years. Hard to abate , high carbon sectors like shipping, are facing are facing significant investments to be in position to transform to a net-zero and zero emission stare. The financial sector is taking significant steps to provide loans, bonds, and funds with terms directly linked to the business actions and commitments to cut their climate impact. Being able to prove and document real emission cuts is becoming a key advantage.

2020's - the decade of action

As truly zero-emission fuels are not widely available until the next decade it necessary to reduce emissions from current fuels as much as possible starting now. It is clear that customers and consumers will demand proof and transparency into the actual emissions and reductions achieved and there will be a need to put in place economic incentives to both reduce emissions and to start migration to zero and net-zero fuels.  

A major trend in international shipping is to move to LNG as ship fuel. This have clear effects on CO2 intensity, but with a side effect that unburnt methane may be released to the atmosphere. Methane is a short-lived, but powerful greenhouse gas that accounts for about half of the rise in global temperature since 1850. The Global Methane Pledge initiative aims to rapidly reducing methane emissions to achieve results in this decade. This is regarded as one of the most effective strategies to limit global warming to 1.5˚C.

The above mentioned initiatives and many others set out to achieve a substantial reduction in GHG emissions starting now. It is clear that immediate action is required to do real reductions in emissions now to start slowing the global warming and to force the transition to actual zero emission technologies.

Knowing the correct emission numbers is key

A key prerequisite in order to achieve and prove emission reduction is the ability to accurately quantify emissions. Knowing the correct magnitude of emissions is essential for fair and correct trading, offsetting and balancing in a net zero state.  

Most maritime emissions reports are based on estimated numbers. Typical schemes are based on standardised models relying on engine technology, bunker fuel certificates, fuel consumption and standard emission factors. The combustion process between hydrocarbons and air is fairly well understood, but uncertainties in travelled distance, actual weather and sea conditions further contributes to margins of error. On top of this there are fugitive emissions of unburnt hydrocarbon and methane slip. The level of slip is to a large extent unknown and combined with the vast global warming potential of methane, even small amount contribute significantly to the total carbon footprint of a voyage.  

In sum, no one knows for sure what the actual emissions amounts to.

Tunable's technology and products offers a cost effective method to measure and quantify emissions of all major GHG's.

Direct emissions monitoring and reporting brings on several distinct advantages compared to methods based on standard models and estimates.


Reported emissions will be correct at all times, independent of operational and weather conditions. This makes it possible to demonstrate the effectiveness of emission reduction effort. Also, it is possible to gain the full potential the reduced emissions by having more available CO2eq emission quotas available for trading or compensation for the existing fleet.

Fugitive emissions are very much unknown during operation under varying conditions. Continuous monitoring of i.e methane emissions  determines the exact emission level. This will promote and prove efficient measures to reduce methane slip. Operators will not need to account for emission levels in the gap between real emissions and default levels used for standard models calculations.

An important factor to keep in mind is that even for renewable or net zero natural gas (or biomethane) the fugitive emissions or methane slip will contribute to global warming. The effort of finding, controlling and fighting methane slip will need to be kept up to continue global emission cuts.

An added advantage of monitoring marine emissions is to get facts on the table and added knowledge of actual emissions. It will pave the way for better and more effective emission factors utilized for calculated emissions.

Continuous emissions monitoring and reporting is the watchdog needed to enable systematic and real emission reductions in the maritime sector.

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