One of the latest advances in maritime shipping promises to save fuel and cut emissions via a simple approach that will be familiar to anyone who has played with toy boats in the bathtub. Container giant Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) will install an “air lubrication” system that allows ships to float on a carpet of tiny bubbles on many of the vessels it has on order, saying the system will cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 10%.
Designed by London-based Silverstream Technologies, the system creates a “blanket” of air bubbles across the surface of the vessel’s hull, reducing resistance created by the ship as it glides through the water. In addition to the energy and emissions savings, this air lubrication system also helps minimize noise, vibration, and “fouling” by barnacles and seaweed, MSC says.As for the extent of the potential savings, Silverstream says vessels outfitted with the bubbler could save an estimated 1.6 million tons in carbon emissions over their lifetime. On top of that, MSC stands to save an estimated $298 million in fuel costs over the same period, the company says.