There starts to be now a better clarity on how to cope with the EEXI regulations.
A bit less than 1 year from implementation, the great majority of ship owners are converging to undertake the below short-term remedies:
- Engine Power Limitation,
- Minor hull interventions – esp. on the aft part, with small scale ESD, ducts, PBCFs,
- Improved hull coatings with low frictional resistance,
- Propeller modifications, or exchange with more efficient ones.
Pretty much largely expected.
All those applied, already aggregate to abt 1M USD for a Panamax ship size, with a benefit of max 15% power savings in good operating conditions, not bad for lifting up the Engine Power Limitation.
Since 2014 the shipping industry is mostly slow steaming, to-date, with a last year exception seen in the container market and periodically into the dry/wet one.
Despite the seasonal peaks, during the last 8 years the average trading speed norm for wet/dry cargo ships remain at 12-13.5 knots, which is already 15-20% less than their average design speed, especially for those built before 2014 (non EEDI phases compliant ships), reflecting a range of 20%-40% of propulsive power capacity reduction, anyways.
OK, solution found.
The EU ETS,
We’re not done yet…
And as the – strategically thinking and long-term envisioning – ship owners are planning their potential pathways beyond EEXI, a decision made by IMO during November’s 2021 MEPC 77, is Changing the Game.
Transitioning from a ‘Device’ to a ‘Voyage Toolbox’
All the performance predictions developed so far for wind propulsion system installations on ships, are based on the assumption that the systems will be ‘passive’ fuel saving devices.
After commissioning and during any sea voyage, whenever the anemometers sense an incoming apparent wind suitable for forward wind thrust generation and net propulsion power saving, the wind propulsion system will respond automatically and adjust their parameters to deliver it.
The circulated benefits of 7%-30% per cargo ship type and size, coming from several system providers are referring to such ‘passive’ contribution (either delivered on average, or instantly).
However numerous studies launched recently are starting to reveal that by incorporating weather routing and integrated power management within the WASP system functioning, the ‘passive device’ becomes a powerful super-efficient Voyage Toolbox, adaptable to each and every itinerary, as it may come from Charterers.
In fact, each and every voyage can be designed, and each route charted in a way to maximize the performance not only of the wind propulsion system, but also of the whole ship at the same time.
The Shipbuilding market’s ‘Eureka’
Shipyards around the world – especially the Korean, Chinese and Japanese ones, that produce the 98% of the new global fleet – are striving to find ways to provide for cost efficient, Capex market positioned, low Opex EEDI Phase 3 ships, unless they are slowed down by at least 1-2 knots, by design.
Now, they have to ‘bring up to their own devices’ to satisfy a forthcoming EEDI Phase 4 ship derivative of each of their existing ‘upgraded’ Phase 3 designs, and they seem to have run out of close-reach feasible solutions, rather than seeking to acquire ‘exotic’ AIPs.
After LNG-as fuel, which has overall an established global supply, a very mature cryogenic components manufacturing Industry, and decades of know-how in operations, what can be possibly adapted as such a low carbon feature in a straightforward way, with the least ship concept design interventions, with the least building basic design modifications, with the least DWT loss on basis of same benchmark ship dimensions, by keeping same cargo volumes and by being price competitive as the market demands?
Can you think of some ‘hands-on’ technology that can provide the leap forward to an EEDI Phase 4 and EEDI Phase 5 ship, whatever the percentages reduction decided by IMO?
IMO has a clear strategic path: Reduce CO2 emissions down to 70%, by 2050.
So far, we are just entering Phase 3 (2022) for certain ships (containers, gas carriers, LNG, etc), which extends to 2025 for Oil/Bulk vessels, and Ship Owners are called to order ships now that will have a trade life until 2042, the earliest.
Thus, there is expected to be a 2030 Phase 4 requirement, and possibly a 2035 Phase 5 requirement, marching toward 2050.
To reach the end goal, the EEDI Phase 4 must be a -10% less from Phase 3 (thus EEDI > – 40% from 2008 baseline) and Phase 5 another -10% less from Phase 4 (thus EEDI > -50% from 2008 baseline).
Every novel type of green fuel to be introduced so forth on a given ship design needs:
- High grade steel components for handling corrosive or super-cryogenic fluids,
- Specialized high safety containment systems (extra weight),
- Volumetric efficiency, at minimum or below 50% of current MDO volumetric demand,
- Extra systems for purging, inerting and relevant piping,
- Extra Ventilation systems and safe Venting for leakages,
- Extra cofferdams and safe access areas,
- Extra fire safety arrangements.
Policy makers that strive to develop the Land-based decarbonization infrastructure (for which shipping is miniscule in size) tend to forget that the burden borne by ship owners to adapt to this new logistic chain will be large, and it will also be irrational to materialize such for a Better ship (let alone a Smarter ship).
Owners, being long experienced in real ship operations and real shipbuilding conditions, realize those are somewhat overseen issues by policy makers, hence their instincts incentivize them to seek for other possible alternative solutions (i.e. methane slip capture, CO2 carbon capture, nuclear power, etc etc).
But, there is a White Swan appearing in the horizon.
The Wind propulsion technologies.
Technologically (and sea) ready systems, that can be installed anywhere there can be clear space available on the deck of a given commercial cargo ship, providing below unique integration advantages to any Shipyard benchmark design:
- Intact cargo volume spaces (no cargo volume loss),
- No change of the main dimensions (thus no need to re-invest in prototype ship designing),
- Minor DWT changes (in most feasible applications, the maximum DWT loss I have seen in the largest WASP fitted ship is less than 600 tons and the smaller the ship, the smaller the loss 🡪 typically it is abt 1-3% extra of the lightweight),
- The only ‘intensive’ ship integration is a simple steel foundation to support the wind propulsor on the deck, and transmit the forces to the ship, rest being cabling and bridge panel.,
- Minimal materials and installation costs,
- Minimal Class approval drawings modifications,
- No need for extra auxiliary systems of any kind (except a small electro-hydraulic power pack for tilting or reefing).
The above facilitations are of course applicable for wind-assisted ships (i.e. the average obtained thrust benefit from the winds is below 30% of the main thrust demand for reaching the service speed), and not for fully wind-powered ships, as may appear coming in the following years.
Investing in EEDI Phase 4 and Phase 5 ships by adding wind propulsors
To transition towards a low carbon ship, it is not only about pushing the edges of the Naval Architecture on how to ‘fit the elephant in the room’ and how to source new green fuels from a ‘to-be-developed’ land infrastructure.
It is about adapting, digesting, using and mastering these novel technologies during ship operations.
Crew training, experience on maintenance requirements, operational troubleshooting and good practice, they are all so far under-estimated factors.
The wind propulsion systems bring simplicity, through the prime principle of exploiting an aerodynamic phenomenon applied on mechanical sails, designed with smartly conventional mechanics coupled with automated operation, which is an easily understood system for the currently employed crew.
The newly adopted MEPC 77/Circ. 896 regulations by IMO, are Changing the Game.
They provide a rational and pragmatic calculation method for incorporating appropriately the true potential that can be delivered by wind propulsion on ships, since according to the new regulations:
- A global wind statistics matrix becomes officially the reference base for wind conditions, a benchmark to represent a large variety of trade lanes where the ship can make use of the wind propulsion system.
- The most favorable net forward thrust occurrences are firstly taken into account until an aggregate 50% of wind probabilities are reached.
- The rest of the weaker thrust wind probability conditions are excluded.
- This first aggregate 50% sum of the most favorable wind thrust probabilities is multiplied by a factor of 2.
- Aerodynamic effects between wind propulsors and the ship are taken into account,
This approach brings a level-playing field among other decarbonization solutions and righteousness for the applicability of wind propulsion systems on ships, since they reflect below shipboard realistic factors:
- A WASP investment is Active: A ship owner has every incentive to maximize the benefits of such a technology and use it not as a Passive add-on Device, but as a Voyage Tool for optimization.
- The wind qualities variance (intensity, direction, frequency of encounter) is better reflected when Operations and shipboard integrated power management will use these data purposefully, to adjust optimal speed and reduce carbon intensity per voyage.
- Every wind propulsion technology (i.e. Rotor Sails, Wing Sails, Kites) has different thrust generation capabilities and optimal performance zones, and their exploitation lays on the hands of the decision makers to determine and choose, depending on their ship sizes, types and specific operational profile. But whatever system is selected, the MEPC 77 regulations now support an optimal operator’s use approach.
As an example, an Aframax Tanker equipped with 3 x 35x5m Rotor Sails, according to the pre-MEPC77 regulations, could achieve an EEDI reduction of abt 10.7% from Phase 3, for a reference speed of 14kn.
With the new regulations, this score can now be fostering a reduction ranging from 17-22%, depending on the system type, arrangement and specific ship installation.
Together with LNG as fuel, a fully ship customized wind propulsion system can cover a 35%-40% reduction already from EEDI Phase 3, leading to the solution sought with minimum Capex addition and least Operational transformation as challenged by Ship Owners to cope for the next two decades when thinking of their next moves.
But do not get me wrong:
The wind propulsion technology is bringing an operational advantage, not a replacement for future fuels.
We Do need for the zero emission Land-based infrastructure to evolve, and deliver the novel low carbon fuels, which can also be married with the wind-assisted propulsion properties of wind propulsors, bringing better balance into ship design optimization and fuel volumes allocation, supporting their major disadvantage, which is indisputably the volumetric efficiency for a given trading endurance of benchmark ships, rather than their long-term cost (which will fall eventually as logistics and scale develops).
Until the novel fuels are ready, Ship Owners can Now already invest in simple-to-operate, Capex affordable, market exchangeable, 2050 compliant ships!
With the new MEPC77 decision making, a Wind Alliance is born: a constellation of wind energy harvesting solutions that come to bring an obvious Way Out, which we – the Believers and Trend-Setters of Energy Efficiency for Ships – are shouting during the last years:
Pure, Clean, Abundant, Free, Wind Energy.
The Game is Changed.