Foreship: 2023 started with 45MWh of shipboard battery power

As the world seeks to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, battery-powered vessels are increasingly seen as a viable alternative to traditional diesel-powered ships. This shift is being driven by a range of factors, including advances in battery technology, the decreasing cost of batteries, and a growing awareness of the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable shipping.

Illustration; Image Courtesy: Stena Line

Around 645MWh of shipboard battery power was in service worldwide at the start of 2023, around 400MWh more than was the case in 2019, according to the estimates from ship design and engineering company Foreship.

“The case for batteries on board ships is increasingly compelling, whether owners are optimizing fuel efficiency by exploiting spinning reserve, maximizing engine efficiency with peak load shaving, or using batteries in specific circumstances as a zero-emission energy source,” said Jan-Erik Räsänen, Chief Technology Officer, Foreship.

Foreship has secured its 40th shipboard battery project so far. The company has taken part in newbuild and retrofit battery projects, predominantly in the cruise and ferry sectors, as well as onboard inland vessels.

Foreship’s portfolio of shipboard battery consultancy services extends from feasibility studies and concept design, to specifications, basic and detail design and project management.

It has also taken the technical specification lead role in Current Direct, the Horizon 2020 project which envisages swappable batteries as the lifeblood of a fleet of all-electric ships clearing the air along European waterways.

The Current Direct project devised an Energy Storage System (ESS) that fits within the footprint of a 20-foot container and has worked with class on standardization for commercial scale-up.

While batteries are used sparingly for main propulsion today, Räsänen pointed out that they convert energy to thrust with much higher efficiency than diesel engines.

As advances in battery technology improve the power vs. size/weight ratio, the usefulness of stored energy as a zero-emission propulsion solution and as a back-up in case of engine failure will continue to rise, according to Räsänen.

“The increasing use of battery technology is making ships more efficient and greener, but also safer,” he said.

“Given IMO goals to reduce ship carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve 50% carbon reduction by 2050, regulators, class, naval architects and systems suppliers have a responsibility to harmonize technical standards for zero emission battery power,” he added.

According to the Maritime Battery Forum, nearly 600 vessels in operation feature batteries as part of their energy source solutions, while a further 190 ships are on order.

Data from DNV’s Alternative Fuels Insight paints a similar picture, showing that there are 589 battery ships in operation, with 208 ships on order. Out of these, car and passenger ferries make up the lion’s share with 253 vessels in operation, and 91 on order. They are followed by offshore supply ships, cruise vessels and fishing vessels as well as vessels categorized as engaged in ‘other activities’.

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