From walrus class to LNG for the shipping industry

“How do we reduce our shipping emissions? Improving efficiency is one potential solution, such as by building larger vessels that have an even greater transportation capacity, thereby reducing the number of movements of vessels, but it almost seems as though we’ve already reached the limits of what’s possible. The actual solution will need to come from alternative fuels and drive technologies.”

The RDM Campus in Rotterdam is an inspirational environment because it’s a place where history and future combine. Just think about it: last century, vessels such as submarines were built which are still considered to be leaders in their field today. Do a quick search for ‘Walrus class’ on the internet sometime and you will be amazed by the capacities of these vessels, and then remember that they were designed and built decades ago.

Breeding ground for the creative manufacturing industry

The Port of Rotterdam Authority, which took over the facilities after a brief period of vacancy, is now continuing this interesting history. Under the motto Research, Design and Manufacturing, the site is being developed into a location and hotbed for the creative and innovative manufacturing industry and for new energy carriers. One of the companies located there is Ampelmann, the first company in the world to develop a walk-to-work system that crew use to walk safely from a moving vessel to a drilling platform or windmill.

Why am I writing all this? During the Maritime Tech conference I attended on the RDM Campus, it became apparent that Ampelmann had taken the theme of the conference ‘simplification through innovation’: how to make it simple (and safe) for people to step from a boat onto something, literally. The best innovations actually make life simpler. That certainly also applies to our Flamingo solution. And although it isn’t as complex as the Ampelmann walk-to-work system, the result is the same: it makes the working life easier and safer.

Reducing shipping emissions

Another theme that was discussed is more complex to resolve: how do we reduce our shipping emissions? The numbers are rather shocking: for each kilogram of diesel oil consumed, a large vessel emits at much as 3.7 kilograms of CO2. The many thousands of sailing vessels account for a considerable proportion of our global emissions. The IMO’s (International Maritime Organization) aim is to take active measures to reduce CO2, but without specifying how.

Improving efficiency is one option, such as by building larger vessels that have an even greater transportation capacity, thereby reducing the number of movements of vessels, but it almost seems as though we’ve already reached the limits of what’s possible. The actual solution will need to come from alternative fuels and drive technologies, but such developments are progressing so slowly that the objectives for 2030 or 2050 will never be achieved. After all, a vessel that’s being developed now will still be sailing in 25 years’ time, and at the moment, there are still no alternative drive systems that are commercially feasible.

LNG as a transition fuel

The consensus is that LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) will make an important contribution as a transition fuel, until alternatives such as methane or hydrogen are ready for large-scale implementation. That offers us opportunities as a specialist in high-quality hose assemblies, because, due to the low temperature at which it’s stored, the pumping of LNG places high demands on the material and the attachments.

Because we have been noticing for some time now that demand for our hoses is on the rise, I am coming to the conclusion that more and more shipping companies will be switching to LNG, and thereby wish to make their own contribution in relation to making their fleet cleaner. There is still a long way to go, but the trend has been set and we are pleased to be playing our part in this. And if alternative fuels become available in a few years’ time, it is good to know that we, Imbema, will be ready for them, in whatever form that might be!

Photography: from RDM Rotterdam’s historic photo archive and Hans Elbers (aerial photograph above the RDM campus)

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