ABB creates vision of future – starting today – with ‘Zero Emissions Port Call’

2014-09-01 - Fifteen years after ABB installed the first shore-to-ship power system in Gothenburg, Sweden, emerging technology can further cut emissions in the world’s busiest ports.
Stena Line ferries in Rotterdam, where ABB has provided a shore-to-ship power link
ABB Marine, working with other businesses within the power and automation company, is developing hybrid marine propulsion systems that combine electrical generators with batteries to trim emissions and help ship owners reduce their long-term fuel costs.

This “Zero Emissions Port Call” – where vessels switch to batteries to enter harbors, then link to renewables-dominated power grids as they unload passengers and cargo – will improve the marine industry’s economic viability even amid pressure to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.

“We want to make emission reductions possible, viable and realistic,” said Eero Lehtovaara, a ship captain who heads ABB’s Marine Design House in Oslo, Norway. “The power of the whole group, and the legacy of what we have within ABB, enables us to be very innovative and very flexible.”

Regulations growing stiffer

Ninety percent of international commerce moves over the ocean, the most-environmentally friendly form of transport compared with airplanes, rail or trucks. Even so, an ever-changing array of regulations mean vessels increasingly must trim their emissions, in particular as they approach populated areas.

The United States and Canada have moved to restrict sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in coastal areas. California’s local rules are requiring ships sailing in and out of the two busiest U.S. ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles to slash emissions.

And since 2010, the European Union requires ships to burn low sulfur fuel or switch to shore-to-ship power, if the vessel is berthed more than two hours.

A challenge, but also an opportunity

Jukka Kallio, director of the Port of Helsinki’s commercial Vuosaari Harbor, said regulations like these will occupy an increasingly prominent role for his port, the gateway for 30 percent of Finland's foreign trade.

Vuosaari Harbor, gateway for 30 percent of Finland's foreign trade
Stricter rules represent not merely a challenge, Kallio said, but also an opportunity - to make operations more efficient and sustainable. This goes not only for his commercial harbor, but also at passenger terminals across town where ferries zip in and out and cruise ships bring 400,000 tourists to Helsinki annually.

There, for instance, noise from vessels has also become a challenge as residential neighborhoods expand in the Finnish capital's historical port area.

“We have to think of all of the options,” Kallio said. “It’s good for the technology, that you can develop and still continue your operation.”

ABB shore-to-ship technology makes it possible

In 2000, when ABB installed Gothenburg’s shore-to-ship power connection, it represented a sea change for ports seeking to cut impacts on urban areas. Since then, ABB has commissioned numerous, similar projects allowing all classes of vessels to cut engines and connect to shore-based power.

From shipyards in Croatia and India to ports in Norway and Sweden, ABB provides not just transformers and converters to match voltage and frequency from the land-based grid to the ship’s system, but also the requisite shipboard equipment to perfect the link.

That means life-changing improvements for residents like those in Rotterdam’s Hoek district, where ABB in 2012 commissioned a shore-to-ship power supply for Stena Line ferries that dock here.

“In the past, when ships arrived, we would usually hear a lot of noise and feel vibrations,” said Hoek resident Rieki Sliep. “Now, it is nice and quiet."

Marine industry has a big opportunity

Today, more than 100,000 vessels dock at 4,500 ports worldwide, producing carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 220 coal-fired power plants annually. And seaborne trade is expected to more than double to as many as 24 billion tons annually come 2030, according to the U.K.’s Society of Maritime Industries.

Eero Lehtovaara, head of ABB’s Marine Design House, says technology for the 'Zero Emission Port Call' exists today
Clearly, ABB’s Lethovaara said the prospects for a “Zero Emissions Port Call” are increasingly good as fleets are modernized to handle this boom while meeting regulations designed to respect the environment.

The vision: At sea, big cargo ships use their main engines to recharge batteries housed in containers. These same batteries also supply peak shaving power, reducing fuel costs.

Nearing shore, vessels switch to batteries to run their propulsion systems. And once berthed, their onboard systems are powered via connections from land. Containers with empty batteries are replaced using a port’s cranes, before ships with supplied with fully-charged batteries again return to the ocean.

“The battery packs could be charged with solar power, with wind power, anything you want to use,” Lethovaara said. “It’s all available, it can be done today.”