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This country is making an unprecedented change to its shipping practices: 'The rest of the world will be far behind'

It will be a groundbreaking feat for cleaner energy in the sector.

COSCO Shipping, Unprecedented change to its shipping practices:

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There are electric planes, trains, and automobiles. Now, China-based COSCO Shipping's huge cargo vessels are going electric, too. 

The first ship has sailed — or rather charged — into the waters as part of what company officials said is a move to use a cleaner fleet in the Yangtze River region.  

Powering the hulks with electricity is a boon for cleaner air. The United Nations Council on Trade and Development reported that more than 80% of the world's goods travel by sea on big ships. The maritime sector produces 2.8% of global air pollution. 

"At present, I'm unaware of any other country or region which has anything remotely equivalent in place in terms of a national and provincial strategy, never mind the capacity to execute," CleanTechnica's Michael Barnard wrote about the electrification effort. 

The first 393-foot, 700-TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) container ship has already been on the water, with sea trials set to start in September, The Maritime Executive reported. That report added that construction on the second vessel has already begun. 

The ships are powered by 20-foot container-size batteries, per the Maritime Executive. The company reported that (compared to a similar-sized fuel ship) electric propulsion will reduce air pollution by 32 tons every 24 hours while traveling a 600-mile route from Shanghai to Wuhan. To cover the route, the plan is to swap dead batteries for new ones at ports along the way. There are 36 replaceable battery containers in the system, per the Maritime Executive. 

The ships include "smart" technology that will delegate power usage based on water flow and other factors, increasing efficiency. The large batteries will power two electric motors, according to the Executive's story. 

From the outside, the ships look like any other cargo vessel on the high seas. They are impressive ocean juggernauts that can move the merchandise we use every day. 

Barnard reported that it isn't clear if every ship in COSCO's fleet is going to be electrified, or when. 

If they are, it will be a groundbreaking feat for cleaner energy in the sector. 

"As half of the world's inland shipping is in China, and the Yangtze is by far the biggest inland shipping route, that means that this ship is the lead vessel in electrification of about half of all inland shipping," he wrote

"The rest of the world will be far behind unless they get their oars biting into the water soon."

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