UCL Energy Institute


UCL-Energy shipping team wins funding to explore effect of behavioural nudges on emission reductions

21 May 2020

£1.4m has been awarded to 10 projects as part of the Clean Maritime Call, a Maritime Research and Innoviation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Photo shows freight ship in the sea against a sunset background.

UCL Energy Institute, in partnership with Signol, has won funding of ~£130,000 for STEAM, Sustainability Through Efficient Actions in Maritime, that aims to directly target the behaviour of crews in order to improve fuel efficiency. The approach is based on putting the right piece of information in the right hands at the right time; providing operators with timely nudges to improve performance in routine tasks.

UCL would have a leading role in providing technical advice, connections to stakeholders and networks, and performance measurement, as well as access to the necessary data and expertise in the methodologies used for tracking ship movements and estimating emissions.

Dr Nishatabbas Rehmatulla, Senior Researcher at UCL Energy Institute said: 

Our work to date has shown there are a number of barriers inhibiting uptake of energy efficient practices and technologies in shipping. This project not only seeks to explore the human dimension of these barriers that can have a significant impact on the emissions of the sector but also propose viable solutions to overcome these barriers and thereby reduce emissions”

The evidence base for this project draws on our previous experience in the aviation sector. Partnering with Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Signol enrolled 335 airline captains into various test and control groups for an eight-month study period. By offering captains personalised targets, performance feedback, and pro-social incentives, they were able to incentivise significant improvements in fuel efficient behaviour, saving 24,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and $6.1 million in fuel costs.

The ten grants awarded, with a total value of £1.4m, will help find innovative ways to develop technology to assist the UK’s transition to a future of zero emission shipping, a long-term ambition of Government as set out in Maritime 2050 and the Clean Maritime Plan, which includes a commitment to drive a transition towards zero emission shipping.