The shipping industry is seeing new applications in cost-cutting and environmentally-friendly technologies that may help its exchange traded funds (ETFs).

Even if the goliaths of the shipping lanes are packed with sophisticated technologies, the ships still burn a thick sludge called bunker fuel and drain diesel to keep lights and air conditioning running at port, reports Ronald D. White for The Los Angeles Times.

Tugboats are a powerful instrument in the seas, but their potential is wasted most of the time idling or cruising. These boats tend to run on full power only 7% of the time and waste 5,000+ horsepower idling 50% of the time.

Foss Maritime Co. of Seattle has developed what they like to call the Prius of tugboats. Their tugboats consume less fuel and generate less pollution with the use of batteries for low-power needs. The system enables most existing tugboats to switch to the diesel-battery setup through retrofitting.

Recent tests have shown turning tugboats into hybrids cuts a tug’s particulate and nitrogen-oxide emissions by as much as 44%.

Ports have $5 billion in expansion projects that cannot be done without innovative ideas, such as the one from Foss Maritime Co., as a means to mitigate the impact of pollution. The Port of Long Beach also saw its first electric container ship, reports Kurt Helin for the Grunion Gazette. So far, only one dock supports it, but the port is planning to electrify the rest of the pier.

Both shipping and alternative energy ETFs could feel the green energy. Two shipping ETFs launched this year:

  • PowerShares Global Progressive Transportation (PTRP): down 28.8% since Sept. 23 inception

ETF PTRP performance

  • Clamore/Delta Global Shipping Index ETF (SEA): down 56.1% since Sept. 8 inception

ETF SEA performance

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.