Shipping challenges to end ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions

Asessing alternative fuels: A key session on the opening day addressed a broadening marine fuel market Asessing alternative fuels: A key session on the opening day addressed a broadening marine fuel market

‘One size fits all’ will no longer suffice as shipping seeks rapid emissions reductions and energy efficiency gains, according to speakers at The Motorship’s Propulsion & Future Fuels Conference.

The first day of the event, taking place in Hamburg this week, was characterised by wide-ranging discussion of the fuels and propulsion technologies that will be needed to tackle both the looming 2020 global sulphur cap and IMO’s ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Reinhard Luken, managing director of German shipbuilding and marine technology association VSM and moderator for the first day of the conference, set the context for the day’s discussions. “We are dealing with some game-changing issues that will have a deep impact on shipping. It is clear that the shift ahead of us will require a major change of mindset in an industry that is not keen on risk and prefers proven, off-the-shelf tools.”

The regulator tasked with driving those changes, represented at the conference by Harry Conway, vice chairman of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, reminded delegates of both the pressing need and the inherent challenge in drawing up global regulation. But he expressed optimism that the industry would overcome the challenges and said industry dialogue was essential to creating effective regulation.

“At the IMO level, we depend on you the industry to provide us with technical information and advice before forming regulations,” Conway said. “We make fact-based regulations, based on evidence rather than speculation.”

That statement suggests that a pragmatic stance to tightening the regulatory framework, but for a cash-constrained industry the most immediate and potentially costly legislation – the 2020 sulphur cap – is already set in stone. Much of the day’s debate, including an early panel of ship owners, focused on how best to tackle the looming sulphur changes.


The ship owner panel unearthed a variety of approaches to the regulation, which comes into force on 1 January 2020 (in 412 days). While some including Spliethoff (represented by vice president business development Sjaak Klap) are opting primarily for scrubbers, others are choosing marine gas oil – among them Royal Wagenborg (represented by fleet manager Piter Oosterhof). The fact that the Dutch counterparts have opted for different compliance options despite having a very similar operational profiles highlights the complexity of decisions facing ship owners.

Other owners were also keen to grasp innovative solutions to sulphur and NOx abatement. Solvang will have some of the first HFO-fuelled vessels to be Tier III certified when its Korean-built quartet of 21,000m3 ethylene carriers are delivered next year. All will feature the group’s combination of open-loop scrubber with water treatment and exhaust gas recirculation, which has been tested over the past four years and was discussed at the conference by fleet director Tor Øyvind Ask.

Meanwhile, chemical tanker owner John T. Essberger has specified a high efficiency propulsion system – running on either MGO or LNG – to include energy storage for a series of newbuilds that are being designed by FKAB, said head of newbuilding Thomas David.

Two keynote presentations looked beyond the looming sulphur changes. Thomas Knudsen, head of two-stroke engines, MAN Energy Solutions, outlined the company’s approach to a diverse fuel mix in the face of demands for industry decarbonisation. “Our strategy is to burn all fuel with only minor modifications,” he said – a stance that was reflected by Knudsen’s colleagues throughout the day as they discussed developments to LNG- and LPG-burning engines.


Teekay Offshore’s ground-breaking shuttle tanker designs – currently being transformed into reality by Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea – were the subject of a keynote presentation by Stein Thorager, sales director merchant and gas, Wärtsilä Marine Solutions. The LNG-burning ships, which substitute four-stroke main engines where a single two-stroke would usually be installed, also burn volatile organic compounds and are among the first merchant vessels to include energy storage.

An in-depth plenary panel explored the future fuel landscape, looking both at the emergence of sulphur-compliant blended fuels and associated challenges – with guidance from Steve Bee of Veritas Petroleum Services – and other ‘alternative’ fuels. Gunnar Helmen, sales manager marine, Skangas, discussed how LNG as marine fuel is gaining traction in Europe in particular as bunkering infrastructure develops, while Madadh MacLaine of ITM Power argued for the accelerated uptake of hydrogen fuel in the marine sector, with reference to a pioneering project in the Orkney Islands.

In the afternoon break-out sessions delegates could choose from streams focused on either propulsion systems or future fuels. The former offered updates on engine developments from MAN Energy Solutions, WinGD and MTU, while the latter explored recent ship projects deploying low flashpoint fuels including LNG, LPG and ethane.

Luken wrapped up an intensely informative day of lively discussion. “We are seeing a substantial increase in complexity and uncertainty. When a situation is unclear, ship owners tend to wait and see, but that is exactly the option we don’t have. The industry has to start making some big choices and investment decisions. One thing is clear – the solution will only come through cooperation.”

A drinks reception after the event, sponsored by WinGD, and a dinner sponsored by Wärtsilä offered delegates the opportunity to relax, network and digest a day of intense discussions before regrouping for the second day of the conference.


If the conference seemed to be dominated by the fuels side of the efficiency equation, the opening session of the second day, ‘Building better ships’ offered a chance to explore other prospective pathways to emissions reduction, with a focus on ship design. Two naval architects, Mia Elg of Deltamarin and David Wing of Houlder, used real life examples – the famous test case of the ropax Viking Grace and Wightlink’s new hybrid ferry – to reach similar conclusions: Optimising a ship’s design does not finish when the vessel is put into service. Modern monitoring methods mean that once a ship is in operation, more realistic data on how it is used can yield further efficiencies. This means that efficiency advances which once had to be applied only on future sister ships can now be made on first-in-series, one-off or prototype vessels.

Another strand of the ‘Building better ships’ sessions was the increasing complexity of modern, efficient ships. Heino Eckerich, founder and managing director of EcoTune Marine, offered one example of the increasing range of energy efficiency aids available to ships. His company has been trialling a synthetic gas generator which produces hydrogen that is then injected into engines as a fuel enhancement. After positive results, SAL Heavy Lift has contracted to install FS Marine+ technology on four ships from April, covering not only the auxiliary engines but also the MAN B&W prime movers.

The FS Marine+ technology is fully automated in operation, but clearly adds to the overall complexity of ship arrangements. Integration on modern vessels is increasingly challenging, demanding new skills from suppliers, yards and owners. Rolf Stiefel, vice president of sales & marketing, WinGD, argued that this increasing complexity demands a new way of working between stakeholders. Greater cooperation and a more integrated approach to ship design are needed to realise the efficiency gains demanded by increasingly onerous environmental requirements and regulations. As an example, Stiefel highlighted WinGD’s collaboration with Wärtsilä and GTT when it designed the LNG fuel system for nine ultra-large container ships ordered by French line CMA CGM last year. The companies have formalised that cooperation to bring integration efficiencies to further gas-fuelled ships projects.

A well-attended session on sulphur-compliant fuel oil reflected the importance of these new fuel formulations to ship operators preparing for IMO’s 2020 sulphur rule. With little information yet on the 0.5% sulphur fuel oils that many oil majors will be making available, the emphasis for ship owners must be on putting solid change management practices in place to deal with whatever emerges, said Naeem Javaid, global operations manager FOBAS, Lloyd’s Register Marine & Offshore. The panel, facilitated by Michael Green, technical director of Intertek and current chairman of the International Bunker Industry Association, were united in the expectation that, whatever formulations eventually come to market, incidences of fuel quality issues are likely to rise – a phenomenon that has accompanied every significant regulatory fuel change to date.


The second day concluded with a discussion that again exemplified the wide divergence of opinion over sulphur compliance options, with proponents of LNG and scrubbers. In the gas corner, Steve Esau of SEA/LNG, the consortium of industry stakeholders promoting the commercial viability of gas as marine fuel, discussed recent advances in global bunkering infrastructure, ship projects and capital demands. Fighting the case for scrubbers, Poul Woodall, director of sustainability and environment, DFDS, highlighted the misinformation that mainstream media (and even some shipping publications) promulgated about the environmental viability of scrubbers. While neither LNG nor scrubbers are perfect solutions to the sulphur problem, they will play an important role at least until zero-emission technologies and fuels become commercially available.

Part of the conference for the first time this year was The Motorship Award. With the annual conference now in its fortieth year – in fact the event reverted to its original ‘Propulsion & Future Fuels’ name in recognition of the anniversary – the time was right to recognise projects and partnerships driving the technical development. Given the current challenges facing the industry, it was decided to reward projects that offered scalable reductions in emissions. As reported in News Review (page 4), a worthy winner was found, with nearly all delegates registering a vote after listening to presentations from four shortlisted companies.

On the third day of the event, a group of delegates visited the Scandlines ferry Deutschland in Puttgarden to find out about the operator’s plans to make its ships emissions-free. The company has already dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions with the introduction, since 2013 of two battery hybrid ferries on the Puttgarden-Rødby route and two of the biggest hybrid vessels in the world – the sister ships Berlin and Copenhagen – on the Rostock-Gedser route.

Newly appointed chief operating officer Michael Guldmann Petersen explained how the company had moved towards zero emissions by replacing diesel generators with batteries. Scrubbers had enabled the hybrid ferries to meet sulphur limits in the Northern European emission control area and the use of specially contracted 1.5% sulphur fuel had meant that the ferries could save energy consumption by scrubbers compared to using conventional 3% sulphur heavy fuel oil. Looking to the future, the company hopes to deploy pure battery ships to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the funnel and, if electricity from wind farms can be harnessed, to deliver a totally emission-free supply chain.



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