30 Jan 2018

If you are in the market for a brand new vessel, it isn’t as simple of ticking the HFO fuel box for your propulsion anymore. With the advent of the Sulphur Emission Zone in the Baltic during 2006, there has been increased pressure on the shipping sector to clean up its industry.

After a long and steady development of the HFO burning engines, there seems to be a willingness of owner/operators/charterers to seek alternative forms of fuel and increasingly environmentally friendly vessel design.

Fueling types

However, the development of some of these fuels is still in experimental stages.  Some of the differing fuel types are:

  • Biofuels - are fuels derived from converting primary biomass or biomass residues into liquid or gases. A larger variety of pathways exit for the production of conventional (first generation) and advanced biofuels (second and third generation), involving different feedstocks and conversions.
  • Hydrogen – (H2) is a potential energy carrier, produced in different ways such as by electrolysis, and reforming into natural gas.
  • Methanol - is the simplest alcohol, with the lowest carbon content and highest hydrogen content of any liquid fuel. Methanol is a basic building block for hundreds of essential chemical commodities and is also a transportation fuel. It can be produced from a number of different feedstock resources like natural gas or coal, as well as from renewable resources like biomass.
  • LNG – has the same emission characteristics as the clean natural gas used for households and industry. The main component is methane  (CH4), which is the gas with the lowest carbon content  of hydrocarbon fuels and therefore has the highest potential to reduce CO2 emissions among all hydrocarbon fuels.
  • LPG – is by definition any mixture of propane and butane in liquid form. For instance, in the USA, the term LPG is generally associated with propane. The mixing of butane and propane is used to enable a specific characteristic for saturation pressure and temperature.

It’s not just the fuels that are changing. The actually propulsion systems are also becoming more technologically advanced.

Alternative technologies

  • Batteries – the advancement in battery technology and the reduction of costs related to a worldwide increase in batteries for propulsion make this technology interesting for shipping.
  • Fuel cell systems – these convert the chemical energy of the fuel directly into electricity and thermal energy by electrochemical oxidation. The direct conversion offers electrical efficiencies of up to 60% depending on the types of fuel cells used. They also produce less vibration and reduced noise emissions in comparison to combustion engines.
  • Wind-assisted propulsion – the traditional energy source for powering ships had for thousands of years always been the wind. Todays, wind assisted propulsion is understood to be the method of reducing the consumption of fuel on ships by utilising wind as a renewable energy source.
  • Flettner rotors – are spinning, or rotating sails, that propel a vessel forward as the wind accelerates around one side of the rotor and decelerates on the opposite side, creating a thrust perpendicular to the wind direction. This technology was first utilised in 1926 when the German engineer Anton Flettner put rotors on two vessels that crossed the Atlantic.

So, what does this all mean for your ship owner that wants to order a new vessel? Well, after going to the 8th Gas Fuelled Ship Conference on board the Viking Line Mariella back in November, we have had time to ponder. The conference was on board the Mariella because the vessel has the largest methanol fuel cell on-board.  All the delegates were able to see inside the box on deck that houses the fuel cells.

Currently the Mariella has a 60kW fuel cell power output which is feed directly into the ships grid (which has a total of 9,000kw of installed auxiliary generators). The fuel cell provides a tiny power output compared to the vessels overall requirements – but this is a step in the right direction, where an older vessel is retro-fitted with an alternative and new power source.

This could be replicated many times across the fleet – providing a small but significant reduction in the use of HFO.

There is also a Platform Supply Vessel – the Eidesvik owned Viking Princess, which has recently been upgraded with a battery pack which reduces fuel consumption by 30% (depending on the nature of operations). In this application, batteries have been used to reduce the number of generators on board.

Sea trails in October 2017 outlined that CO2 emissions where reduced by 13-18%. Viking Princess now runs on a combination of power from the battery pack and three Wartsilla engines that burn LNG.

In the past, Eidesvik, has also utilised a battery pack on the Viking Lady, although the batteries were not configured to eliminate a generator. However, the Viking Lady was ‘even more responsive’ with the batteries on board. DNVGL pointed out that the batteries give a vessel ‘instantaneous access to power, when it is needed’, and that ‘diesel engines can’t give instantaneous response.

The benefits of a battery pack, and in the future, fuel cells, could be seen to be very helpful to vessel operators. These technologies are able to help vessels meet increasingly stringent air emission regulations.

However, a presentation by Nina Savijoki of Deltamarin suggested future vessels may well utilise a number of different technologies to enable vessels to become as efficient as possible. Deltamarin has designed a concept Ro-Pax with a number of innovations. The vessel has dual- fuel electric machinery, with new compact Aziipod propulsion from ABB. The vessel is powered by LNG, with a GTT Mark III membrane tanks. There are also rotor sails to increase propulsion and help to decrease fuel consumption.

Deltamarine RoPax of the Future

© Deltamarin


Viking Line, which was the first company to order a large LNG fuelled Ro-Pax for its Stockholm-Turku route – the Viking Grace – has set the bar even higher for its next vessel. The company worked with Deltamarin to design a new more environmentally friendly vessel. The new concept will be 10% more energy-efficient compared to the Viking Grace.

The vessel will have a 2,800 passenger capacity, with 1,500 metres of cargo lanes.

The vessel will be fuelled by LNG, with the addition of two 24-metre Flettner rotor sails. These are calculated to save about 435 tonnes of LNG annually.

Viking Line New Ro-Pax

© Viking Line


In 2017 Color Line announced that it was to build a battery hybrid vessel. It will carry 2,000 passengers and around 500 vehicles – it will be the world’s largest hybrid ferry when delivered in 2019. The vessels will operate between Norway and Sweden.

As a plug-in hybrid, Color Hybrid’s batteries will be recharged either with a power cable with green electricity from shore or by the ship’s on-board generators. Its bank of four-to five MWh batteries will deliver sufficient power to enable fully electric operation for 30 minutes and enough to sail silently and with zero CO2, NOx and SOx emissions.

Color Line – New Ro-Pax Color Hybrid

© Ulstein


Hurtigruten signed a contract for two hybrid cruise ships. The first will feature a battery-powered auxiliary engine for ‘peakshaving’, where the battery dynamically responds to cover a spike in demand – this measure alone is expected to cut fuel consumption by 20%. The second vessel will have batteries capable of sustaining fully electric operations for more than 15 minutes. If this proves successful, this more ambitious implementation will later be retro fitted to the first ship.

Hurtigruten New Hybrid Cruise Ship

© Hurtigruten


As you can see there is a growing array of alternative fuels and propulsion systems that can be designed into new vessels. It would seem that the future is much more about fine tuning your vessel for the requirements of its specific trade. Vessels such as PSV and Ro-Pax provide a relative stable environment for operations – as they usually operate on regular routes. However, it won’t be long before fuel cells, batteries and other advanced technologies will be making their way to long-haul new build vessels such as container ships, tankers and bulkers. Once orders for these types of vessels start to materialise, it really will be the start of the end for the all dominant HFO fueled propulsion systems.

Source: DNV, Deltamarine, 8th Gas Fuelled Ship Conference

David Bull
Principal Consultant
Energy Shipping Specialist

David Bull has over 17 years’ experience of the maritime sector having worked for Lloyd’s List, Drewry and Braemar Seascope shipbrokers. As a Principal Consultant and Project Manager at OSC, David’s main work lies in providing analysis, market insight for due diligence, economic feasibility and trade and traffic forecasting models. His main focus is on the energy sector. He specialises in services for the LNG, offshore and liquid bulk markets. David has a BSc in Geography and holds a CFA Investment Foundation certificate.

Royal HaskoningDHV Maritime also provide a variety of services including: selecting/designing/optimising mooring facilities for LNG import or export terminals. We also provide Dynamic Mooring Analysis for vessels response to wind, wave and currents. See  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmK20fADODI

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