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Technologies for clean sailing. Part 5 about alternatives to marine fuels.

15 November 2019

There are several possibilities to meet the IMO’s objectives of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008. The previous blogs have mainly explained the use of alternative fuels, but there are also technologies that make life easier. Scrubbers have already been discussed in an earlier blog, fuel cells have also been discussed, but there are more options. Part 5 from the series about alternatives to marine fuels.

Wind force

The idea of ​​using wind to make ships sail is as old as shipping itself. In this time, it is called innovative.

The Dutch Dykstra Naval Architects designed the Ecoliner, a ship with both a diesel-electric drive and four large sails. The sails can provide a fuel saving of 40% in optimum conditions. It has not progressed further than a design, the construction has not yet got off the ground.

The German company SkySails already pioneered with wind propulsion. In 2007 the Beluga SkySails was equipped with a kind of kite surfer, a giant kite. Then an existing ship, the Michael A, was also equipped with this. A ship equipped with SkySails would have to burn 10 to 35% less oil. The maximum speed can also increase by 10%.

The Flettner rotors are more likely: large vertical cylinders that rotate continuously and on which the wind exerts perpendicular force. Shipping company Maersk will equip a tanker ship with this. It will be a ship that sails for Shell Shipping & Maritime. The expectation is that this will lead to a fuel saving of 7 to 10%. The design is made by the Dutch C-Job Naval Architects. The Energy Technologies Institute from England is also involved in the project. That research institute also contributes to the financing.

The rotor sails are designed by the Finnish company Norsepower. Norsepower has already used Flettner rotors: on the Estraden ro-ro ship and the Viking Grace ferry.

Photo: Norsepower


Sailing on batteries is a very plausible clean solution for smaller ships, which (now) sail at shorter distances. For larger ships, the major problem is that it is not (yet) possible to store enough energy.
DNV GL expects that battery-powered ships will become a significant part of the regional fleet.

Ferry services are a good starting point for starting with batteries. In Denmark the ferries Tycho Brahe and the Aurora of the HH Ferries Group are equipped with (only) a battery. The ferries sail a route of 4 kilometers between Helsingborg (Sweden) and Helsingör (Denmark), which requires a battery pack of more than 4 megawatt hours.

Norway has been using a fully electric ferry since May 2015, the Ampere. Compared to comparable ferries that run on fossil fuel, the CO2 reduction is 95 percent and the reduction in operational costs is 80 percent. The electric ferry was launched in May 2015, with the aim of reducing both pollution and noise. The ferry is an initiative of Norled AS, Fjellstrand Shipyard, Siemens AS and Corvus Energy. 53 orders have now been placed.

The port of Antwerp is also embarking on electric sailing: there are (soon) eleven electric inland vessels sailing around. The ships are supplied by the Dutch Port-Liner. The electric inland vessels are part of an initiative to reduce the number of truck trips to and from the port. The Antwerp Port Authority is investing € 1.4 million in seven projects, which together must result in a reduction of 250,000 truck journeys. The ships are equipped with large batteries that can be charged or replaced when they are empty. The batteries must together ensure that the ships can sail for 15 hours.

And the GVB, the public transport operator of Amsterdam, recently announced that it will be using five fully electric ferries. By 2025, all operational ferries must be emission-free. The ferries are designed in a way that they can top up when passengers and vehicles leave the ferry. The charging process takes a maximum of four minutes at a time, which should be enough to operate 24 hours a day, without the ferry having to plug in at night. The ferries will have a loading capacity of twenty cars, four trucks or four hundred passengers.

In 2017, the world’s first fully electric cargo ship was launched in China in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The ship has been developed by Guangzhou Shipyard International Company and is fully powered by lithium-ion batteries. The emission-free ship has a radius of action of 80 kilometers, after a loading time of 2 hours.

Finally, Damen is building the first fully electrically powered tugboat for the Port of Auckland. The batteries are charged by a 1.5 MW battery charger. It would only take two hours to charge the ship. The cost for construction is estimated at $ 8 to $ 9 million, but the savings over the lifetime of the tugboat are around $ 12 million: on the purchase of diesel and lower operating costs.


What will the future bring? In the sixth and final blog the magic ball will be taken out of the cupboard….