Water transportation is sustainable. Fewer trucks on the motorway leave more space. But, the vessels in this mode of transportation, are they sustainable themselves? It goes without saying that ships too have to cope with the consequences of Dieselgate. As a matter of fact, the market still does not offer any large marine diesel engines that live up to the emission standards which should already have been in effect today (Stage V). Diesel engine manufacturers are unable to achieve the objectives as development schemes are lagging behind. For the time being, authorities are looking the other way, but the question is whether this will enable us to achieve the climate goals.
Will this enable us to achieve the climate goals?
The scenario was easy to predict after dieselgate I. Are we then heading for dieselgate II ? Diesel engine exhaust gas aftertreatment offers more disadvantages than advantages and will amplify TCO or total cost of ownership. No doubt diesel engine developers are at the end of their tether.
Move to hybrid propulsion
The next step forward is to move to hybrid propulsion. New ships taken into service now must therefore be equipped for the energy transition they will encounter. In other words, they must be able to switch easily from one fuel to another. This is something electric propulsion lends itself to perfectly well. The electric power needed for propulsion will be supplied by generators mounted in on-board containers and running on fuels like CNG, methanol, hydrogen, or on a combination of generators and fuels.
For a truck, the situation is different. Its average lifespan is much shorter than that of a ship for one thing. Trucks are not converted into EURO6 vehicles. They are simply replaced with new EURO6 trucks.
In the case of marine vessels this approach is not feasible, taking into account the substantially higher investment effort required. Shipping companies therefore have to look beyond the nearby future. They will be obliged to adopt a new vision based on insights in future energy landscape developments. Fortunately, a continuously growing number of examples of this change of thought are popping up.
In the next blog, we will be talking about unmanned electric-powered vessels that are already being deployed for maintenance work.