URI to host workshop to advance environmental sustainability of ships, boats, ports

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – March 31, 2014 – The University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography will bring together marine architects, boat designers and builders, and the operators of research and commercial vessels April 8 and 9 to discuss strategies for promoting the environmental sustainability of boats and ports.

URI Oceanography Dean Bruce Corliss, who organized a similar workshop in 2009 at Duke University that focused on research ships, said he hopes the event will facilitate discussions that will lead to greater care of the oceans by the marine transportation industries.

“We want to bring together people with expertise and those who want to learn more about the sustainable operation of existing and future vessels, rebuilding ports, and potential business opportunities,” Corliss said. “We especially want to reach out to the private sector here in Rhode Island to learn how GSO might be able to be of assistance to them.”

Corliss said one step some vessels are incorporating into their operations is a new hybrid propulsion system, similar to those in hybrid automobiles, that combines diesel engines, electric generators and batteries.

“These hybrid systems coupled with energy management equipment allow you to fine tune energy production with energy needs,” he said. “In most ships, the engines are running full tilt all the time, but they don’t need all that energy, so much of it is wasted. With the hybrid systems, you can fine tune your needs between the diesel, generators and batteries.”

Biofuels are another important consideration. The URI ship Endeavor was the first U.S. research ship to use refined biodiesel, and a number of smaller vessels operated on the Great Lakes by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also use biofuels.

In addition to talks on propulsion systems and biofuels, speakers at the workshop will discuss such topics as sustainable ship designs, efforts by the U.S. Navy and the cruise industry to make their ship operations more efficient, and the use of biolubricants. URI Assistant Professor Austin Becker will speak on “climate ready seaports,” while URI graduate student Jonathan Benvenuto will discuss the recycling of fiberglass boats.

The workshop is sponsored by Eleventh Hour Racing, with additional support from Utilidata, Braemar Energy, and the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System.

“The commercial sector has embraced this approach to making their vessels greener because it has a positive effect on their bottom line and because, in some cases, regulations require it,” Corliss said. “We hope this event will help expand these efforts and raise them to the next level.”

For more information about the workshop, contact Amy Smith at 401-874-6440 or asmith@gso.uri.edu.