Rough ship surfaces may reduce global warming

Better aerodynamics reduce fuel consumption, and thankfully, car manufacturers work on aerodynamics for the European market. But fuel economy is not only important for land vehicles. As we know, it’s very important for aircraft, but also water vessels should improve their fuel economy. A lot of fuel is used for cargo transport by ships, but if we can improve their hydrodynamics, we can reduce their fuel consumption.

One way of reducing their fuel consumption, is off course reducing their drag. This can be done by making their surfaces more rough. This is contrary to our intuition, but this study done by the UCLA proves that the right sort of roughness can reduce the friction drag of the ships. This will reduce the fuel consumption and that will in turn reduce the global warming.

I think that a lot of research has to be done on fuel economy for ships, but should there also come some sort of regulation about the fuel consumption, like there is for cars now?




  1. The technology has been here for decades e.g. turbulator strips or turbulators on aircraft, but also shark-skin biomimicry swimsuits:

    The problem why this hasn’t been adopted to ships yet is a property of an ocean many people forget: it’s not only water but it’s full of life. Ships get a lot of sea-inhabitants who latch onto their hull, increasing the drag so much micro-features like a sharkskin or creating a controlled turbulent flow are rendered pretty much useless.

    In my opinion research for more fuel-efficient ships should first focus on how to deter this unwanted latching of sealife to the hull (e.g. using a teflon coating) and only then can we look to further optimise the flow.

    As to your question about regulation, ofcourse there should be a regulation pushing ship manufacturers to new lengths in terms of eco-sustainability, although this regulation should be accepted on a world-wide level as most ships are built in Asia.


  2. The latching on to ships of different sealife is indeed a problem, but with the current technology and research being done, I think this won’t be a problem for long.

    However, more important is the regulation. The problem with the regulation is that most ships sail in international waters most of their time. Only a part of the time, they are in national waters. This means that the regulations have to be worldwide, including international waters or it won’t have effect. Off course if your regulations become worldwide for international waters, you come to the point that if a company transgresses the regulation, who do they pay their fine to? If it’s in national waters, there’s no discussion, but if it’s in international waters, who will be the one to enforce the regulation and collect the fine? A lot of work has to be done in such regulations.


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