Do People Realise the Unimaginable Amounts of Electricity Needed to Power the Merchant Fleet?
200 million tonnes of oil or diesel.
That's what the global merchant fleet uses every year to power its ships. In order to replace this with electricity, we would need some 5,500 terawatt-hours (TWh) each year. That corresponds to roughly 580,000 onshore wind turbines or 800 nuclear power plants. This data comes from Intertanko, which represents shipping lines in the tanker segment.
To put this in a Swedish perspective, I refer to a survey of cross-border transport presented by the government agency Transport Analysis (Trafikanalys) on 22 December 2022, which shows that 60 per cent of all Sweden's cross-border transport operations are carried out by sea. Maritime transport is therefore extremely important and this is not something I'm alone in thinking.
Some time ago, I read an op-ed in Göteborgs-Posten on the subject. It was written by Fredrik Larsson, who is responsible for environmental and climate issues at Svensk Sjöfart. Among other things, he pointed out that the Swedish-owned merchant fleet accounts for barely half a per cent of the global fleet. Despite its small size, it will still need electricity equivalent to 3–4 nuclear power plants or 2,000–3,000 wind turbines.
Much like the rest of the transport industry, I know that Swedish shipping is working hard to reduce its carbon footprint. The aim is to achieve a zero level of harmful emissions in air and water, by 2045 for national maritime traffic and 2050 for international maritime traffic.
In order to achieve this, Svensk Sjöfart now questions whether society, with its politicians at the forefront, really understands what is required to make this happen.
Against this background, it now calls on the government to:
- Increase the production of renewable electricity and propellants
- Increase the pace of expansion of renewable electricity and fuels
- Increase funding for research and innovation in the field in general, and for shipping in particular
- Encourage those who are ahead of the curve In Sweden, fuels such as methanol, hydrogen, wind, and biogas are currently being assessed. It is vital that these players are not left in a position where they do not benefit from these efforts.
- Invest the revenues from the EU Emissions Trading System in the maritime energy transition (which will include maritime transport from 2024).
I, and all of us at NTEX, obviously agree with this. Without Swedish maritime trade, we will face major problems, not least drastically worsened living conditions.
FOOTNOTE 1: 1 TWh: 1 terawatt-hour corresponds roughly to the amount of energy used by the entirety of Sweden in one day. 1 TWh= 1000,000,000 KWh.
FOOTNOTE 2: In 2019, the world's total electricity production amounted to about 27,000 TWh. More than 60 per cent of this electricity is currently produced using fossil fuels, mainly coal and natural gas (Ekonomifakta).