In this paper, we will investigate social factors that indirectly affect ship energy efficiency, intended or not. These include fleet management, charter party agreements, piracy, regulatory factors such as Emission Control Areas, port congestion and port awareness, economic factors such as cost of fuel and charter rates, and human factors (safety, comfort, attitude, and education). I call them “social factors” because they all have the characteristic of being created by our society, rather than being driven by the laws of physics. In comparison, physical factors include such things as hull and propeller design and condition, draft and trim, speed through water, engine state of tune, weather effects such as waves, wind and storms, ocean currents, and fuel quality. While optimizing for physical factors can lead to energy and cost reductions of 5-20%, focusing our attention on social factors can lead to even higher net savings, providing greater return on investment. First, we will review how social factors differ from physical ones. Then we will explore several social factors that affect operating efficiency that are frequently overlooked as having potential for optimization, or at least taken for granted as being unavoidable. Finally, we will examine specific social factors where existing technology, either as is or in modified form, may be applied toward realizing substantial return on investment in terms of operating costs, along with reductions of fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

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