The Role of Sustainability in Indian Shipping and Naval Defence

The Role of Sustainability in Indian Shipping and Naval Defence

India has maintained a strategic approach towards the development of naval defence in the last 10 years. Not only have we been increasing our military might in the Indian Ocean, we have also begun to take sustainability as a driving factor while building new-age boats and ships. Inspired by the global efforts towards creating a greener world of shipping, the Indian Navy has also taken up a string of green initiatives that are expected to promote environmental sustainability.

In this article, we see what measures are being taken by the Indian Naval forces like the Navy, Indian Coast Guard, and the Border Security Force, to enhance sustainable shipping. We have already implemented several initiatives for increasing ship sustainability, with many other ideas under consideration. The ultimate aim, as mentioned by Admiral R. K. Dhowan, is to synergize India’s blue water capability with a green footprint.

Why is a Sustainable Approach Necessary?

Sustainable development is the need of the hour, across all verticals of progress. Shipping and naval defence are no exception either. At present, the idea is to develop our existing naval capabilities to meet the demands of the future. As the scarcity of non-renewable resources and the cost of energy increases, India may soon find itself in a position where all the conventional resources become useless or ridiculously expensive.

To avoid such a situation, maintaining a sustainable approach towards boat development and management becomes imperative. Building this capability to meet current and future requirements will be effective in ensuring operational readiness of the defence forces. Consequently, this push towards sustainability can make India an environmentally aware and energy-efficient force that meets the future head-on, instead of having to execute last-minute plans for sustainability compliance.

Sustainability in Indian Boat Design

Sustainability is an important aspect of boat building, right from the outset. Throughout the ship’s lifecycle, energy is consumed during the various stages of boat building including boat operation, boat maintenance, and dismantling. This energy can be classified as establishment energy, energy used in materials and transportation, during the actual construction, and any overheads that are incurred by the shipyard. Now, designing the boat so that this use of energy is reduced in the different stages leads to the creation of a ‘green’ or sustainable boat. It is hence evident that sustainable boat design begins right from the conceptual phase.

Some of the best measures that can be taken to reduce energy consumption in the boat and in boat building include:

  • Use of alternative materials, which are recyclable (like FRP) or biodegradable, can be used in building the boat hull. Minimum quantity of steel and other energy consuming materials by optimizing the procurement process is another solution.
  • Electricity consumption during the manufacturing processes can be reduced by reducing the machining involved as well as regular maintenance of the machines and equipment. Furthermore, rework can be eliminated by constant quality assurance and management which reduces energy consumption to a great extent.
  • In terms of boat design, an effective hydrodynamic structure to minimize water resistance and efficient propeller flow are necessary. These can be tested using CFD techniques and model testing.
  • Hull structure needs to be optimised for safety and reliability by reducing hull weight. Structural analysis using FEM techniques is of great importance here. Additionally, hull lubrication is necessary to reduce corrosion, frictional drag, and fouling. To maintain sustainability, environment-friendly paints should be employed as they are non-poisonous and non-polluting.
  • While dismantling the boat, hazardous materials need to be handled very carefully or they may cause heavy environmental damage.

Green Initiatives for Sustainable Naval Defence

The Indian Navy adopted the ‘Green Initiatives Programme’ on World Environment Day four years ago, June 5, 2014. Ever since then, it has designed and implemented several short-, medium-, and long-term goals to achieve energy efficiency. The principal aim of these initiatives is to reduce the use of equipment that can potentially damage the environment and align the goals of energy conservation in the defence sector with those of the Indian Government.

Consequently, there is a two-pronged approach according to which the initiatives are classified – one, minimising environmental impact, and two, increasing resource efficiency. A detailed plan of all the efforts this initiative will entail is included in the Indian Navy Environment Conservation Roadmap.

With respect to ship building and construction, the SEEMP (Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan) is proposed to ship owners and operators. Under this plan, they are expected to review operational practices on ships and consider options for improvement and technology upgrades. These measures will improve ship efficiency and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thus optimising performance. Furthermore, all new ships under construction are expected to be MARPOL compliant. The Eastern and Western Naval Commands have conducted energy audits of the naval dockyards in Mumbai and Visakhapatnam, to ensure energy optimization.

The government has commissioned a port-to-ship power supply under the Green Ports Project, which is also a part of the sustainability initiative. This solution is to be implemented at the V. O. Chidambaranar Port and will allow ships to dock at the port and plug for power, instead of running on fossil fuels that pollute the environment. The Green Port initiative aims to reduce the carbon footprint of ports by making use of biodiesel and renewable sources of energy.

The Road Ahead

It is important to understand that sustainable growth is a process, not simply a one-step product. Priming people’s perspective towards sustainability is critical for achieving significant results.  Sustainability in shipping and naval defence ranges from energy conservation to environmental protection, and efficient operation through the entire lifecycle of the boat or ship.

The Indian naval defence and shipping efforts are currently implementing sustainable boat design as a major part of their growth strategy. The aim is to build a fleet that is ready for the future, not just for today. The naval growth is anchored on indigenisation and self-reliance. As the naval forces emphasize on building boats and ships instead of buying them, it is up to the Indian boat manufacturers to rise up to the challenge and create sustainable boat designs.

What are your thoughts on the way sustainability is impacting Indian boat design? Any insights you would like to share? Drop a comment to let us know!

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