The shipS of tomorrow

Nautical, engineering and sustainability experts around the world are rethinking the design and powering of ships to make them more environmentally friendly. The results in some cases are nothing short of visionary and will help the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels as its prime source of energy.

Setting new standards

CSL’s new Trillium Class vessels

The Baie St-Paul, CSL’s new Trillium Class

CSL’s four new Trillium Class lakers respect the highest environmental standards. The first of these vessels, the Baie St. Paul, made its inaugural visit to the Port of Montreal a few months ago. The main engine on these new vessels will reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions compared to previous ships.  The TBT-free anti-fouling hull coating, LED lighting and an integrated bilge water treatment system will reduce the environmental footprint. Power takeoff generators powered by the main engine will reduce fuel oil consumption. Cofferdams surrounding fuel tanks will increase spill prevention. Water-lubricated stern tube bearings will eliminate the need for oil lubricants.

Practical applications

The MS Auriga Leader.

In late 2008, the M/V Auriga Leader became the world’s first cargo ship to have part of its power generated by solar panels.

The 200-metre vessel has 328 solar panels installed on its top car-carrier deck. They provide up to 10 per cent of the ship’s power – enough to run its electric network and significantly reduce the amount of diesel required to transport 6,400 automobiles.

Developed by Nippon Yusen K.K. and Nippon Oil Corp., the vessel is part of the NYK Line transporting Toyota vehicles.

Brilliant success

PlanetSolar has launched the world’s largest
solar-powered vessel

A solar-powered vessel has already circumnavigated the globe. On September, 27, 2010, PlanetSolar launched the world’s largest solar-powered boat to promote solar energy as a more sustainable source of power for marine transport and tourism.

By May 6, 2012, the futuristic catamaran had spent 578 days crossing three oceans, 11 seas, and visiting 28 countries during its 60,006-kilometre journey.

Designed by an international team of engineers, the catamaran is 31 metres long and 15 metres wide. Its surface – except for a raised cockpit – is covered with the highest efficiency solar cells that are commercially available. 

Equipped with the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, the catamaran can travel 1,000 kilometres on stored power when the sun isn’t shining. PlanetSolar reaches a top speed of 14 knots (24 kilometres per hour) and can house 40 people.

Producing no environmental pollution, the catamaran moves noiselessly. Swiss innovator Raphael Domjan and German solar energy expert M. Immo Ströher have been working with several companies to transfer the knowledge gained from the PlanetSolar expedition to larger vessels.

Creativity, innovation and human ingenuity

LNG bunkers

In the Netherlands, the Bodewes Binnenvaart shipyard (div. of the Damen Shipyards Group) and the inland shipping company QaGroup have teamed up to design and build a vessel they believe will set the new standard for inland shipping. The EcoLiner uses liquefied natural gas (LNG) as its only fuel.

Bodewes Binnenvaart and Marinvention, another Dutch company, have patented an air lubricated hull to make the EcoLiner ply through water with much less resistance. Called ACES (Air Chamber Energy Saving), the series of ribbed compartments along the bottom of the hull reduces fuel consumption by 15 per cent.

While the LNG/ACES system can be fitted to any inland ship, its initial design is for the 110-metre EcoLiner, which is based on the well-known Damen River Liner 1145. By using modular installations, future versions can be built to customer specifications.

An automatic management system turns the four generators on or off depending on how much power is needed. The system ensures the engines run at the most fuel-efficient speed depending on the weight of the cargo on board.

“The energy created when using less power can be stored, or used to heat or cool the cargo, or for cooling water, or heating accommodations,” says Rob Schuurmans, Bodewes Binnenvaart’s director. “The waste heat is also used as energy so that absolutely nothing is wasted.”

Trials indicate the EcoLiner uses 25 per cent less fuel than a traditional vessel of compatible size.

LNG ferries

A North American first, the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ), which provides passenger transportation services from Montreal to the Lower North Shore and the Magdalen Islands, is investing in the construction of three ferryboats that will run on LNG rather than oil. Diesel fuel will be used only to start the engines or as an alternative fuel in the event of a supply shortage.

“Considerably reducing the use of diesel and using cleaner-burning LNG will cut the greenhouse gases from each of the ferries by 25 per cent compared to similar ferries operating with oil,” says Isabelle Beaudoin, the STQ’s environment and safety manager.

Built for $148 million, the ferry on the Matane/Baie-Comeau/Godbout run will have a capacity of 800 passengers and 180 CEUs (car equivalent units). It will be delivered at the end of 2014. Ramp configuration and high-tech propulsion will make it easier to manoeuvre the two ferries on the Tadoussac/Baie-Sainte-Catherine run.

The LNG investments are part of the first phase of the Government of Quebec’s plans to revitalize transportation using greener energy.

Wind power

The Ecoliner Fair Winds, from the Dutch
companies Dykstra and Fair transport Shipping.

Dykstra and FairTransport Shipping, two companies in the Netherlands, plan to launch the first of a fleet of mostly sail-powered container ships later this year. The Ecoliner Fair Winds will have four large square sails that are fully automated. The computer-controlled sails will automatically be adjusted on a constant basis using real-time satellite positioning and weather tracking data to determine the best route based on winds and currents.

The Ecoliner is expected to reach a top speed of 18 knots (33.3 kilometres per hour) while transporting dozens of industrial containers with little or no emissions. When speeds drop below 12 knots (22.2 kilometres per hour), an electric motor will run the electric-diesel propellers.

The EcoLiner, from Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands.

FairTransport hopes the high costs of fossil fuels will convince shipping companies to regard the higher cost of building the Ecoliner as a money-saver over the cargo ship’s projected 30-year lifespan.

Sailing ahead

In Northern Ireland, B9 Shipping is also working on a vessel that will not use any fossil fuels. The small cargo or cruise passenger ship will harness most of its power from the wind.

“The design is inspired by some of the world’s fastest yachts that embark in the around-the-world races off Southampton, England,” says Diana Gilpin, B9 Shipping’s development director. “We’re hoping with industry support to have the full-scale working prototype ready within three years.”

B9 Shipping’s cargo or passenger ship of the

Each ship will obtain 50 to 60 per cent of its power from the wind using Dyna-rig sails for its propulsion. The independently rotating sails are electronically adjusted from the ship’s bridge. They can be positioned to make the greatest use of the wind on their widest surface, but also quickly turned out of the wind if there is a sudden squall.

The rest of the ship’s power will be provided by engines fuelled with liquefied methane. B9 Shipping’s sister company, B9 Organic Energy, has a facility that uses bacteria to turn municipal food waste into a biogas. The methane will fuel the ship in the same way that LNG is used.

Solar energy

The Greenheart project combines sails and solar

Often the best ideas are the simplest. The Greenheart Project will combine reliable sails with solar panels that power a storage battery and electric drive on a 9.75-metre boat.

“The Greenheart is a small, oceangoing merchant ship with zero emissions, low carbon and impact, and capable of delivering economic resilience and independence to impoverished coastal communities around the world,” says Pat Utley, director of the Greenheart Project.

Its size is perfect to be powered by renewable energy. So there are no fuel costs or air emissions. A solid, shallow hull enables the boat to go into places where other ships can’t. The design even permits the vessel to land on a beach where there are no port facilities. A mast crane enables the mast to be lowered under bridges.

The Greenheart Project is currently seeking grants and donations to build the Sailing Vessel (S/V) Greenheart prototype that will not only transport cargo, but serve as the organization’s floating headquarters and training boat for young people as it travels the world.