The Continuing Search for Cleaner Propulsion
Ship operators are continuing to search for cleaner and cheaper propulsion as environmental regulations tighten and fuel prices rise. To date, the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has been one solution, particularly in northern Europe, but its availability for ships trading worldwide is still limited. For this reason a number of vessels are being built in an ''LNG ready'' configuration, with their engines capable of being retrofit to burn gas while space has been made available for the future fitting of LNG storage tanks and piping.
In the container sector a number of smaller feeder ships are now being built to operate on LNG (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, Jan 2016) while the world's second largest container shipping company, CMA CGM, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with French energy group ENGIE to promote the use of gas as a marine fuel internationally for larger ships. This is expected to see the development of engineering specifications for bunkering tankers specifically adapted to fuel LNG-burning container ships that would be powered by duel-fuel conventional engines as well as combined gas and steam turbine systems. The latter type of propulsion is being investigated under the PERFECt project launched by CMA CGM in partnership with DNV GL, GTT, ABB, Caterpillar, and OMT.
In the petroleum tanker sector, all large product carriers now being built domestically are being finished with the capability of being adapted to LNG usage while bunkering facilities have been opened on the Gulf of Mexico and are under construction in Florida and Washington. In Greece, Dynacom Tankers Management has ordered six 157,000-dwt Suezmax tankers from China's New Times Shipbuilding that will be completed to a Gas-Prepared notation granted by classification society Bureau Veritas. This will allow the 274.3-meter by 48-meter vessels to be easily converted to dual fuel propulsion in the future by taking into account the necessary spaces needed to accommodate LNG storage tanks, bunkering stations and gas handling and venting systems during their construction.
At the same time Norway's Viken Shipping AS has ordered four crude oil tankers from South Korea's Samsung Heavy Industries at a combined cost of approximately $220 million but with an option that at least one of the vessels may be converted to run on LNG. This would boost the overall contract price but also make Samsung the first shipbuilder in the world to have built an LNG-powered crude carrier and Viken the first owner to operate one. The tankers, which will include two 113,000-dwt aframax and two 157,000-dwt suezmax, are expected to join the Viken fleet in 2018/19.
LNG Use Expanding
While large cargo carriers trading worldwide must still wait for an international LNG bunkering network to be firmly established, vessels trading on short sea routes need only a single bunkering facility. This has seen a growing number of ferries built to use the fuel, with several already operating in Europe and in Canada. Over the next few months three 105-meter-long double-enders, each capable of carrying 145 vehicles and 600 passengers, will make their way from Gdansk, Poland to Vancouver, British Columbia to become the first LNG-powered ships to trade along the West Coast, with the first, Salish Orca, already undergoing crew training.
They are arriving at the same time as two smaller LNG-burning hybrid truck ferries that are being placed into service between the Canadian mainland and Vancouver Island by British Columbia's Seaspan Group (see Pacific Maritime Magazine, Jan. 2016). The 489-foot Seaspan Swift and Seaspan Reliant, designed by Vard Marine and built by Turkey's Sedef shipyard, incorporate a hybrid propulsion system that makes use of Wärtsilä 34DF dual-fuel engines and a 1,050V, 546kWh Corvus Energy Storage System (ESS), the latter consisting of 84 AT6500 advanced lithium polymer batteries integrated with an Elkon power distribution system.
With a capacity for 59 truck trailers the new vessels will begin replacing a fleet of seven older Seaspan truck ferries and are expected to be joined by another three additional hybrids over the next few years.
LNG and All-electric
Turkey is also building LNG-powered ferries for other operators, including Italy's Caronte & Tourist, which has contracted the Sefine Shipyard near Istanbul to build a 133-meter by 21.5-meter ferry designed by Norway's LMG Marin for delivery next year.
The double-ended vessel will have a capacity for 290 cars on two vehicle decks and 1,500 passengers. Propulsion will be provided by a gas-electric system using three dual-fuel engines.
When completed the ro/pax will operate across the Strait of Messina between Villa San Giovanni and the island of Sicily. Turkey's Tersan Shipyard is building two smaller all electric ferries for Norwegian operator Fjord1 for delivery later this year. The twin vessels will make use of an electric propulsion system to be supplied by Germany's Siemens Group which will include lithium-ion batteries for energy storage as well as an energy management system that will supply current to two Rolls-Royce Azipull thruster units.
The ferries' batteries will be charged at each end of their 2.4 kilometer crossing using a shore connection with the local power grid which will be monitored from the vessels using WiFi communication.
In Norway itself, the Myklebust yard has been contracted to build two biodiesel hybrid ferries for FosenNamsos Sjø to a design drawn up by compatriot company Multi Maritime that will also be capable of all-electric operation. Upon delivery towards the end of 2018 the 106-meter-long double-enders will be placed in operation on the Flakk – Rørvik route, a crossing of approximately 7,400 meters with a travel time of 25 minutes. The turnaround time will be 5 minutes, with all vehicles and passengers being unloaded and loaded while the batteries are charged.
Despite the very short time available for charging, high voltage and high capacity charging units will enable the route to be operated on almost all electric power. Both ferries will have a capacity for 130 cars and 390 passengers and their gross energy consumption is expected to be 70 percent less than a conventional diesel powered ferry of the same size.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Although the use of hydrogen fuel cells for marine propulsion, other than in small excursion craft, appears to be some distance off, developments in the European railway sector may lead to units capable of ferry and workboat installation. Alstom of France has recently unveiled a fuel cell-powered passenger train, the Coradia iLint, that makes use of technology developed by Canadian fuel-cell firm Hydrogenics.
The multi-unit commuter train carries both its fuel cells and hydrogen storage tanks on the car rooftops and is capable of a top speed of 87 mph and a range of between 370 and 500 miles. Its introduction is expected to speed the development of high capacity fuel cells for rail use that could be modified for marine applications, with the possibility that a commercially viable train will be placed in service on a European network before the end of this year.