Electric ships built through a consortium involving LJMU may be the catalyst to bring major shipbuilding back to the UK.
The battery-powered ships – expected on our seas by 2028 – would be the first large vessels yet capable of running with zero emission and are designed for the offshore wind industry.
The project has received a £20million boost from Innovate UK and is led by Bibby Marine with the Port of Aberdeen, Shell, ORE Catapult, DNV and Kongsberg and LJMU’s School of Engineering as ‘research partner’.
“The offshore wind industry is particularly keen to have sustainable ships supporting sustainable energy generation,” explains Dr Musa Bashir, Reader in Marine and Offshore Engineering, who is leading the research and data analysis on the project.
Up to 300 SOVs (Service Operation Vessels) will be needed by 2050 for the offshore wind industry alone and currently none are electric.
Dr Bashir, who is currently working on another Innovate UK (CMDC R3) funded project to demonstrate the conversion of a diesel crew transfer vessel (RV Princess Royal) to electric with hydrogen range extender, says to design and build a large offshore ship from scratch is a different prospect entirely.
“We’re looking at a 90m ship with nearly 100 people on board; that will take some propelling, but it will also make huge savings in emissions – 10,000 tonnes of carbon in its lifetime.”
Plans for the vessels which will be operated by Bibby Marine, envisage a power unit of up to 20MWh batteries, which with in-field charging will make it capable of completing a two-week operational cycle on zero-emission electricity and fully rechargeable at the Port of Aberdeen.
Innovate UK believes this new electric vessel could be a “catalyst to bring shipbuilding back to the UK”.
"The vessel will be a game changer for our industry – supporting its ambitions to turn the U.K. into the world’s number one centre for green technology." - Bibby Marine CEO Nigel Quinn
Calling it the “largest vessel to date capable of running truly zero emissions” it points to improvements in air quality near ports, better water quality, noise reduction and the creation of a knowledge sharing platform for future clean maritime projects.
Bibby Marine CEO Nigel Quinn, said: “We are excited to work with our partners to launch the world’s first eSOV – the first new vessel for Bibby Marine in five years. This project is the natural progression of our decarbonization journey, which began in 2019, to find the right solution to achieve our net-zero goals.
“Designed in the U.K., the vessel will be a game changer for our industry – supporting its ambitions to turn the U.K. into the world’s number one centre for green technology, create jobs and accelerate our path to net zero, by harnessing the best of British technologies.
The announcement on the £20m match funding from the UK Government, was made at London International Shipping Week, where Maritime Minister Baroness Vere said: “As a seafaring nation, it is in our national character to push nautical limits and this funding will help to ensure the UK maintains its position at the leading edge of maritime innovation.”
Professor Mark Power, the Vice-Chancellor and CEO of LJMU, said: “As the country’s first nautical college, LJMU is proud to continue to support research and innovation in the regional and global maritime industries. The development of electric vessels is an important element of maritime decarbonisation and net zero which is crucial for the industry’s future.”
Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Professor Ndy Ekere said: “Yet again, LJMU’s expertise in marine engineering and technology is delivering real impact both for the prosperity and viability of industry and for all our sustainable futures. Congratulations to Musa and his collaborators.”