Data from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has shown that the maritime industry is a significant contributor to the pollution of our planet. According to the fourth GHG study, which was published in August, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions derived from the shipping industry have increased to 10% in the period between 2012 and 2018.

The study also found that emissions from black carbon and methane increased by 12% and 150% respectively.

To comply with the IMO’s directive of cutting 50% of emissions by 2050, the maritime industry has been working on alternative power sources, including marine electrification.

Some companies, including US-based energy tech provider LAVLE, are increasingly investing in the development of electrification technology to increase their popularity within the industry.

LAVLE COO Morten Pedersen explains why marine electrification has become “the new black” and why it is an excellent step towards reducing the shipping industry’s carbon footprint.

Ilaria Grasso Macola (IGM): For those who don’t know, what is marine electrification?

Morten Pedersen (MP): Marine electrification is a general term for the industry moving from fossil fuels to the electrification of vessels. The maritime industry will not use electrification just for the vessels but for everything that regards.

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By GlobalData

Maritime electrification [covers] the whole drive train of propulsion, so everything in the system from electric propellers to inverters, [and from] switchboards to batteries.

IGM: Why is marine electrification needed?

MP: The biggest driver is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime industry.

In the world of transport, energy comes from these petroleum-based [sources] or fossil fuels, and the maritime industry is a big contributor.

This is why we want to try and get sustainable energy and batteries and more energy storage [to act] as enablers for that. The electricity obviously has to come from somewhere so [the project] will be in cooperation with companies that provide green electricity.

IGM: What are the pros of electric systems in the maritime industry?

MP: The electrification of vessels and this industry in total is a little bit like moving from analogue into digital. You have the chance to optimise systems into a better resolution than you have with heavy machinery and equipment.

Electric systems are always controlled by computers so that you can make small tweaks here and there. And that means you can optimise your vessel according to its exact needs, getting better performance and safe new energy.

For a fully electric system, one of the other pros is that there is less need for engineers working on the vessels, decreasing the costs of operations. As the technology matures, it will make vessels very price competitive as well and that means that you’ll be able to move more cargo and people via sea.

IGM: LAVLE has claimed that marine electrification is now considered “the new black”. Can you explain what you mean by this?

MP: Batteries are the most logical choice right now to optimise vessel operation. You can add batteries almost anywhere and they will create a good benefit.

It’s such a great solution for almost everything in the sense that batteries allow owners to operate their vessels differently, while still reducing their emissions.

The new black means the new popular thing that everybody can use and that is definitely why we call it that.

IGM: Can you explain what the differences are between next-gen propulsion, electric and hybrid systems?

MP: Hybrid systems are made up of a mixture of two or more sources of energy.

When thinking about hybrid systems, people generally think about diesel gas engines connected to energy storage systems in one way or the other. However, a hybrid system could also be a fuel cell or another power-generating plan, but these are next-gen propulsion systems.

The last one is the fully electric systems, which have batteries installed on vessels where you have a shore connection – usually a ferry crossing with relatively short transit time.

IGM: Out of the three, what is the most cost-effective solution for companies who want to move towards electrification?

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. It depends on the vessel’s operation profile as well as its geographic location.

On a ferry with a 15-minute passage, 100% electrification could work very well, but for a coastal vessel that carries cargo and has a longer transit, a hybrid installation would be the one to have.

So it depends always on the operational profile as well as geographic location.

IGM: Will the future of the industry rely on electric and hybrid vessels? If so, in what capacity?

MP: I’m 100% sure that this is the case. If you look at the Norwegian fjords or the canals in Amsterdam, they’re all coming out with the pretty aggressive goals of having zero emissions, which means everything has to be electric. I see that also in coastal waters and inland borders.

But in that short period of time, as the technology matures and gets more efficient, I see [hybrid vessels] spreading as there’s an overall interest in not having these emissions.

The industry has taken on electrification very well. I would say that marine electrification has accomplished more in the last five years than what alternative fuels have done in the past 15 years.

I definitely believe electrification is the future and I think we haven’t even scratched its surface yet.