Technology outlook 2020 from DNV

30 Apr 2011
New routes will open up in the Arctic regions, providing a challenge for designers, operators, and class

New routes will open up in the Arctic regions, providing a challenge for designers, operators, and class

It seems customary at the moment to try and predict the future of shipping. At SMM 2010, we were given Wärtsilä’s Shipping Scenarios 2030, and at Nor-Shipping 2011, Det Norske Veritas will present its view of where the maritime business – and the other industries with which DNV is involved – is expected to be in 2020.

Even in that comparatively short period, DNV expects the world balance, its population, and its climate to have changed somewhat. As far as the maritime community is concerned, the low energy ship will have become a reality. The main driving forces behind this are high bunker costs and the ever-stricter emissions regulations driven by the strong focus on environmental issues. The new concepts, according to DNV report author Elisabeth Harstad, managing director DNV Research and Innovation, will be further driven forward by advances in materials science, propulsion technology and drag reduction.

The low energy ship will employ a number of techniques, with 10-20% reduction in drag brought about through air injection – air bubble lubrication and air cavity systems. Advanced composite and metallic materials will be employed to reduce the weight of the hull, and thus reduce the energy requirement. Hybrid propulsion systems will further reduce the energy needs, while advanced hull shapes could totally eliminate, or drastically reduce, the need for ballast water to be carried.

Hybrid propulsion, which in DNV’s scenario means a combination of shaft-driven screw propellers and podded propulsion units enhanced by swirl fins, will save some 10% of fuel, while other fuel-saving technologies and alternative fuels will change the way ships are driven. The sort of abatement technologies that are currently proposed will, says DNV, go some way towards achieving ‘greener’ ships, but at a cost of increased CO2 emissions.

A significant move to natural gas fuelled ships looks a virtual certainty, while other fuels such as biofuels and nuclear will come under the spotlight. Renewable energy, such as towing kites, will provide further fuel savings.

Electric propulsion is another DNV vision for 2020, based on a mix of conventional and super-conducting motors, powered by a combination of diesel and/or gas-fuelled gensets, batteries and fuel cells. Supplementing the generating capacity using solar panels and wind turbines should be easily integrated into this concept, particularly for auxiliary power requirements. It is likely that auxiliary needs will increasingly be met in port by ‘cold ironing’ systems fed by clean on-shore power plants.

Moving from the engineroom to the bridge, electronics will be employed in operating the ship efficiently. Electronic navigation capabilities will be extended using advanced weather routing techniques to save fuel as well as increase safety, and the increasing piracy threat will encourage more sophisticated radar detection, communication and vessel tracking technology. Pirate deterrents will be built-in to ships. The enhanced communication and tracking systems will further allow arrival in port to be synchronised exactly with pre-determined berth availability ‘slots’, providing more opportunities to control fuel costs.

Reduced amounts of ice, and the need to exploit raw materials in new regions, will have an impact on trading patterns and routes, with greater use made of Arctic waters. Ice load monitoring, vessel routing, and improved hull design will enable greater Arctic trade to become a reality.

To incorporate all these developments and technologies, more sophisticated methods of designing ships will be employed. Current design tools and techniques will be gathered together in integrated systems, which will become ever more complex and place greater demands on the users. Not just hull design, but ship machinery design will be undertaken using mathematical models, and organisations like the major class societies will need to take a leading role in these developments.

As DNV’s Technology Outlook document puts it: “Mature and emerging economics will become increasingly dissimilar in terms of demography and development as the world population approaches 7.5 billion in total by 2020. In a world with more resource-intensive lifestyles and increased population, demand for maritime transport is bound to grow. As the industry is facing pressure to offer more sustainable transport solutions, new ships with improved environmental, safety and security performance will be needed. This will require more focus on developing and implementing innovative technical and operating solutions, with particular attention to achieving greater environmental performance and energy efficiency.”

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