The Finnish flag is fiercely clacking at the stern as the Viking Grace carves through spring ice, past scores of small islands on the route between Stockholm in Sweden and Turku in Finland.
A maritime revolution is taking place in this narrow waterway and its archipelago of hundreds of small islands. The Viking Grace, a brand new cruise ferry, is fuelled entirely by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and is the first of a new generation of green passenger ships.
Down in the bowels of the ship, the engines are running on 100% gas, although they are capable of using old-fashioned diesel as a back-up propellant if necessary.
“LNG is the cleanest of the fossil fuels we have on Earth,” says First Engineer Victor Gingsjoe…”Compared to running on diesel oils, the particle matter that we release into the atmosphere is virtually nothing. The sulphur oxide emissions are practically nothing. And also we can reduce the CO2 [carbon dioxide] by up to 30%…”
By using LNG, the vessel is complying with new emission controls that come into effect in the Baltic Sea in 2015. Similar rules will begin simultaneously in the North Sea and along the east and west coasts of North America.
It is hoped the changes will make a significant difference to the ecology of the Baltic Sea, which is heavily polluted, in part from Russian ships coming from the east…
The project’s supporters say the new regulations will not just benefit nature, but also public health.
“In Europe, we know that about 50,000 premature deaths are caused from air pollution from shipping,” says Dr Presse-Kristensen…”And the cost to society is about 55 billion euros every year, so it’s a huge cost.”
An operating business/government structure that thinks beyond the next quarter or the next election is such a rarity here in the United States – I imagine this would be as difficult for our patent leather political hacks to get their heads round as the science and ethics behind the decisions resulting in transportation like this.