Some of the world’s biggest fleet owners, charterers and tonnage providers have highlighted the technical challenges facing global merchant shipping at The Motorship’s 39th Propulsion & Emissions Conference in Hamburg this week.

An opening panel featuring Mitsui OSK Lines (Kenta Arai), Hapag-Lloyd (Wolfram Guntermann), Maersk Line (Ole Graa Jakobsen) and Carnival Corp (Tom Strang) epitomised strong ship owner and operator involvement

An opening panel featuring Mitsui OSK Lines (Kenta Arai), Hapag-Lloyd (Wolfram Guntermann), Maersk Line (Ole Graa Jakobsen) and Carnival Corp (Tom Strang) epitomised strong ship owner and operator involvement

Under the conference theme ‘Future proofing the global fleet’, ship owners and operators – representing a combined fleet of more than 1,900 vessels on stage (and much more in the room) – focused on their response to environmental regulatory issues including SOx, NOx and CO2 emissions reduction as well as ballast water treatment. Assisted by some of the world’s leading technology providers and industry specialists, timely topics including digitalisation and hybridisation were explored while advances in key technology areas – including engines, turbochargers, fuels and cylinder lubrication – were discussed.

Keynote speakers Stefan Micallef, director of IMO’s Marine Environment Division and Ole Graa Jakobsen, vice president and head of fleet technology, Maersk Line, set the scene by putting future challenges in regulatory and commercial context. Micallef described IMO as “a catalyst for more efficient ships” and noted how the organisation needed to continue to evolve in the face of accelerating technical and social change. Jakobsen highlighted the efforts of the world’s biggest ship owner to make its fleet more efficient, emphasising a new focus on connected shipping and revealing some crucial elements of its emissions reduction strategy.

Jakobsen revealed that Maersk Line will aim to burn low-sulphur fuel rather than using scrubbers to comply with the IMO’s global sulphur cap after 2020. In a ship owner panel, that decision elicited some strong debate from fellow shipowners following different sulphur strategies. Kenta Arai, general manager technical division, Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) acknowledged that fitting scrubbers to the whole fleet was impractical. But a rival view was presented by Carnival Corp, which according to senior vice president maritime affairs Tom Strang is the world’s biggest user of scrubbers. However Carnival is also pursuing an LNG-fuelled strategy to tackle sulphur compliance, noted Strang.

Wolfram Guntermann, director environmental management, Hapag-Lloyd, acknowledged the challenge of scrubbers for larger merchant vessels with a power output of 80MW or more. He noted however – and others agreed – that how sulphur and other regulations are fairly and evenly enforced will be as important as how the industry tries to comply with them.

After a powerful introduction, the conference ended on a high note after a riveting on-stage discussion between ship managing and operating members of the CIMAC engine users group. Jörg Erdtmann, vice president, technical management and service, NSB Niederelbe Schiffahrtsgesellschaft (and chairman of CIMAC WG10) discussed the work of the group in addressing engine performance issues across several areas. Recent practical projects include working towards an online cylinder drain oil sample analyser, as well as a radical de-rating initiative that could enable older engines to meet new energy-efficiency standards.

Together with fellow working group members Christoph Gessner, managing director, Columbus Shipmanagement and Helge Bartels, managing director, E.R. Schiffahrt, Erdtmann also offered a representative sample of how German tonnage providers are tackling the regulatory challenges of energy efficiency and emissions reduction.

The event also offered some fantastic networking opportunities including a welcome reception hosted by Blohm+Voss at the Hafen Club, and a conference dinner sponsored by GE Marine at Blockbrau on the River Elbe.

A full report will appear in the June issue of The Motorship. Meanwhile highlights of the event can be viewed in the blog below, which presented live coverage throughout the conference.