A new report authored by renowned scientist Fred Pearce (Confessions of an Eco Sinner) shows that just 16 of the world’ s largest cargo ships emit more sulfur dioxide (SO2) than all the automobiles on the road today.

Cargo ships burn the cheapest and least-refined diesel available and that fuel is loaded with toxic particulates now linked to more than 64,000 deaths a year. And as the shipping fleet grows — there are more than 100,000 ships now — so does the problem.

In addition to toxic pollution, cargo ships also beat out airlines in terms of total carbon emissions. It is estimated that by 2020, the shipping industry will be responsible for 6 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

The IMO has mandated a 15 percent reduction by 2020 in fuel consumption on sea vessels, but one Finnish startup company called Eniram is hoping to get that number closer to 20 percent using an innovative system of sensors and a computer system that allows sailors to subtly alter the angle of the prow as it rides the waves, thereby shaving off resistance and saving fuel.

On the FinnFacts blogger tour, we paid a visit to Eniram headquarters in Helsinki and spoke with VP Aki Luukkainen, who described the innovative technology that makes these massive ships ride more smoothly and efficiently.

Until now, it has been up to the ships captain to “eyeball” these adjustments, but even the best of the best cannot keep up with Eniram’s “DYNamic Trim” which rapidly calculates the motion and speed of cross currents and, via a simple but data intensive display, recommends when and how the ship should be adjusted to compensate.

One example is stabilizing fins. Every boat has them to reduce side-to-side rocking, but most ships leave them extended out into the water most all the time, which means as much as a 12 percent loss in fuel efficiency. With the Eniram system, ship captains will be alerted when it’s safe to pull the fins back in.

The initial investment though significant ($300-$400K) is quickly paid back in fuel savings in as little as a few months. Learn more on Eniram’s website.

Eniram outsmarts waves to reduce cargo emissions
New report: 16 cargo ships emit more sulfur dioxide pollution than all the world’s cars combined. One Finnish startup has a solution.