Maritime CEO Forum: Crystal balling ships in 2030

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A shipowner, ship manager, class society, propulsion specialist, and technology provider led discussions this week at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore for the Maritime CEO Forum to examine what ships will be coming out of yards at the start of the new decade.

Kicking off the session on how the global merchant fleet will look like in terms of propulsion, nuclear propulsion proponent Mikal Bøe, chairman and CEO of Core Power predicted that in 2030 the world will continue to complain that we’re not making much progress, that emissions will go up by a lot compared to today and that there will be no large commercial zero-emission ships on a well-to-wake basis with 75% of ships running on VLSFO, 20% on LNG and the remaining 5% on methanol as an additive to VLSFO.

David Barrow, vice president, of South East Asia, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore, told the audience it will be a mixture of fuels with carbon capture battery hybrids and even nuclear as an option. “The technology is there”, Barrow said, but noting that: “The issue with nuclear is you’ve got a whole different array of stakeholders to deal with.”

There are so many things you need to take into account what is going to be the leading fuel, Barrow said, highlighting pillars such as technology, policy and regulation, social aspects, and people aspect.

Susana Germino, general manager of decarbonisation and environmental compliance at Swire Shipping and Swire Bulk, does not see any major changes in ships by 2030 but stated that by that time they’d be more flexible with voyage optimisation, carbon capture and dual-fuel technology and also much more connected, pointing to data sharing, which today’s industry is lacking.

Germino also highlighted the energy efficiency technologies and stressed that when it comes to dual-fuel technology, “it is not about the fuel, it will be a multi-fuel industry.”

“Everything will be specific to the geographic regions where you want to operate and where technology and fuel is going to be available. If you need to use, let’s say, ammonia in 2040 and you’ll only have it in the Atlantic, you’re not going to have your vessel working in the Pacific,” she said.

In terms of nuclear, Germino added that she does not see ships moved by nuclear power but being absolutely necessary for the production of green fuels. “There is not enough green hydrogen for us and for other industries.” “I don’t expect any fantastically futuristic vessels until 2040,” she concluded, with the hope that Swire might at least have dual-fuel technology by 2030.

Ships in the near future will be a lot more connected. “I believe that this is something that is going to happen very easily and very fast. “The technology is there, it is not that we need to discover anything or invest. It is cheap, it is easy, anybody can connect the vessel,” said Eleni Polychronopoulou, CEO of METIS Cyberspace Technology who envisions north of 50% of ships with good connectivity onboard by 2030.

Commenting on the cost of investing in the new tech, Polychronopoulou added that “It is nothing compared to what is coming, the visibility that you get, the fact that you know what is happening onboard the vessel, especially with the lack of skilled crew. It is very important that you have full visibility of the vessel, to know exactly what is happening, when and why. You can do an easy root cause analysis with all this data, which would be very difficult otherwise.”

Rajesh Unni, CEO of Synergy Marine Group said the Singapore-based shipmanager has been working on several propulsion and decarbonisation options, including LNG, methanol, carbon capture, what to do with the captured carbon onboard, and batteries. Synergy is also heavily invested in collecting data from ships to improve efficiencies, but Unni said he doubts that would bring behavioral changes. “If all work onboard will be about collecting data, then, in my opinion, we create a faster caterpillar and not a butterfly,” he said, adding: The question is what to do with that data. You need to give people insights that help them change the way they behave and act. Only when that happens can you expect people to change. So, will shipowners or anybody else, even the ship’s staff, be happy to have visibility and data? Absolutely yes, but it is only when you turn that into insights.”

In terms of ship design by 2030, Unni sees wind-assisted propulsion and drag-reduction technologies coming.

Speaking from the floor, Kris Kosmala, a partner at Click & Connect and Splash columnist, said that for the ships of the future in 2030 to materialise, you actually have to have people ordering those ships.

“If I’m waiting five years to get a fully loaded green ship with the technologies and fuel that we know today, well then we are looking at 2029,” Kosmala pointed out.

“If there is no orders being placed for it, then the ship by 2030 is going to look pretty much like the ship today. It is still going to operate on bunker and is still going to carry a very sophisticated scrubber,” Kosmala said.

While bringing the session to an end, Swire’s Germino noted: “There are no zero-emission fuels; there are none. Even with nuclear, unless it is used on the ship, there will be some sort of emission associated with it. So, the only zero-emission ship that will exist in 2050 is a sailing ship without any engine.”

Further reports from the Maritime CEO Forum will be carried by Splash in the coming days. The next event in the series takes place at the Monaco Yacht Club in October.