Electric road vehicles are slowly but surely making progress. According to figures published by the International Energy Agency worldwide sales were up by 40% in 2016. But an electric-powered ship – isn’t that technically impossible? A few years ago, we would have agreed, but advances in electric power storage and generation have made this emission-free dream come true – in Finland, for example. A 525-ton ferry with the appropriate name ELEKTRA (shown on the picture) is now transporting up to 375 passengers and 90 cars through the islets off the Finnish port of Turku. The batteries for this Finferries vessel were manufactured by Siemens, a company with a long tradition in electric-powered vessels with the first one built as long ago as 1886! In the Norwegian city of Trondheim Siemens employs more than 1,000 people in the development and construction of electric-powered fishing vessels, working boats and ferries. Siemens built the world’s first e-ferry, the AMPERE, in 2015 and is currently expanding its battery production facility in Trondheim.
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The number of filling stations for LNG-powered ships is limited. Germany, for example, has none. So a floating filling station like the CARDISSA is a very useful companion for the growing number of LNG-powered vessels. The CARDISSA was built in South Korea and operates as an LNG bunker ship for Shell.
Her most recent voyage took her from Amsterdam through the Kiel Canal to the Swedish port of Nynäshamn. 2018 will see the world’s first LNG-powered cruise liner, the AIDANOVA, in operation. Its four powerful engines will generate no particulate or sulphur dioxide emissions and 80% fewer nitric oxide emissions than conventional marine diesels. That’s one reason why liquid natural gas is seen as a key factor in improving the shipping industry’s ecological footprint. Not least for this reason, Shell is planning to add another two vessels to its floating filling station fleet.
Cruise shipping is booming worldwide. Experts expect that more than 30 million people will be taking a cruise holiday by 2020 at the latest. But what about all these cruise liners’ exhaust emissions? Right now, the cleanest ships are to be found in US waters and the Baltic Sea where scrubbers are playing an increasingly important role in the eco-strategies of cruise shipping lines such as TUI Cruises.
Even though modern-day ships are much better equipped to sail through storms, most sailors prefer to avoid them. Yet according to recent research published in Geophysical Research Letters by Joel Thornton and his colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle, some storms may actually be caused by ships themselves. They have shown that lightning strikes in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea occur almost twice as frequently along shipping lanes as in other areas of these waters.
The researchers worked extremely thoroughly, investigating some 1.5 bn lightning strikes recorded by the World Wide Lightning Location Network between 2005 and 2016. Fascinatingly, they discovered that the strikes happened over seawater were concentrated on much-frequented shipping lanes, and in particular the one that runs from south of Sri Lanka to the northern entrance of the Straits of Malacca and from there on to Singapore.
Wind or air movements alone were ruled out as causing such a concentration of thunderstorms, as the atmospheric conditions outside these shipping lanes were no different. That ships are made of metal and their superstructures are the tallest objects in an otherwise fairly flat expanse of water was also thought to be improbable because vessels only occupy a tiny fraction of the area covered by these shipping lanes.
The most likely explanation is sulphur-rich particulate pollution from ship emissions. Burning sulphur-rich marine diesel produces soluble sulphuric oxides that act as nuclei for the condensation of small cloud-forming droplets. When carried upwards by convection, these small droplets form storm clouds from which bolts of lightning can emerge. But the prospects for fewer lightning strikes in these shipping lanes are good. Standard bunker fuel currently has an average sulphur content of 2.7%. From 2020 it should be down to 0.5% if the IMO rules are obeyed.
One of the most challenging issues currently facing cruise shipping companies is air pollution in ports. Cruises through the Mediterranean, Baltic or Caribbean involve port calls in any number of tourist hotspots, and it’s not just in popular stop-offs such as Venice that the locals are getting worked up about air pollution from cruise ships moored close to city centres. SOx, NOx and fine-particle emissions from ships are a growing concern, not just to environmental activists.
One way of significantly reducing emissions is to install LNG-powered engines – and the world’s first LNG-powered cruise liner, the 183,900-ton AIDANOVA, is currently under construction at the Meyer Shipyard in Papenburg in NW Germany. The engine room for this cruise ship was recently completed at the Neptun Shipyard in Rostock on Germany’s Baltic coast. Then on 26 September, this 120-metre long and 42-metre broad section of the ship containing the four LNG-powered Caterpillar MaK engines passed through the Kiel Canal en route to Papenburg. It was a tricky trip. The maximum breadth for ships passing through the Kiel Canal is only 32 metres, but with a special permit and less than 1 metre of leeway on each side, the floating engine room section was safely steered through the Canal by two tugs, the RT PIONEER and BUGSIER 6. With the safe arrival of the engine room in Papenburg another important step was taken towards lowering emissions from cruise shipping. The AIDANOVA is due to go into service in November 2018.