Researchers tackle wicked problems in shipping industry

29 April 2022

An industry-academia research partnership could help offer solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of the freight transport industry.

  • Swire Shipping’s Moana Chief

    Swire Shipping’s Moana Chief


Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The University of Canterbury (UC) researchers Dr Patricio Gallardo and Adjunct Professor of Practice Radnya Mukhedkar of the Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPECentre), and Adjunct Professor Susan Krumdieck, now based at Heriot Watt University, are collaborating with Swire Shipping on “practical pathways to tackle the wicked problems of a sustainable transition to a low emission future,” according to Adjunct Professor Mukhedkar.

With a commitment to achieving the COP21 Paris agreement imperative to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2°C, Swire Shipping’s aim is to reduce its present energy demand in line with the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.

Dr Gallardo describes the relationship between Swire Shipping and UC as “synergistic” with UC providing scientific basis and academic rigour to the research based on official open-source and industry data.

“The partnership is important to the University as it provides a degree of data availability which is often difficult to attain due to the commercial sensitivity of freight data.”

New Zealand Country Manager of Swire Shipping’s Pacifica Shipping Brodie Stevens says, “Corporate social responsibility dictates that organisations must look to work and act in a sustainable way, and reducing carbon emissions is a key part of this responsibility.

“A transparent evaluation by an independent research authority is important to ensure there is no commercial or mode bias in the research and findings.”

A reduction in carbon emissions within shipping requires a full understanding of the emissions caused by all modes of freight transportation, Stevens says.

“Transport in New Zealand is a significant contributor to our existing carbon footprint. It is important we understand what our carbon emissions are now. This will enable us to set the baseline from which to calculate the benefits of various modes of transport and consider alternatives like new low or zero carbon fuels for coastal vessels.”

Using the InTIME© Interdisciplinary Transition Innovation, Management and Engineering Methodology pioneered by Professor Krumdieck, the transition of resources requires a multidisciplinary approach, Dr Gallardo says.

“The transition space not only looks at energy resources, it looks at the whole picture. We need to look at the activity system, fuel resources, technologies, policies and regulations, and changes in the social-economic system. It is complex, but provides a comprehensive picture.”

In 2019 there were 418,000 container movements in Aotearoa New Zealand, carried either by coastal ships or international vessels transiting the coast, according to Stevens.

“New Zealand needs a viable coastal network therefore it is important we learn how shipping can contribute to meeting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

To learn more about energy transition, join UC’s free Sustainability: Energy Transition MOOC and delve into energy systems to discover the path to sustainable solutions.

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