The two most pressing issues facing shipping – safety and the green transition – were examined in detail during Riviera’s Maritime Hybrid & Electric, Europe conference
Arguably more than any other nation, Norway has been at the forefront of maritime’s path towards a cleaner, brighter future. But despite the milestones the country has already met, many more ambitious targets remain ahead for Norway and the rest of the world as shipping undergoes its ‘green transition’.
The targets will take many forms -- propulsion technology, regulatory edicts and new fuels -- and Norway’s maritime cluster is likely to remain a key driver of innovation and change. During Riviera’s Maritime Hybrid & Electric, Europe virtual conference in November, Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment specialist director, department for marine management and pollution control, Sveinung Oftedal explained how the country had adapted to the demands of green shipping, and how it planned to develop its already ambitious approach over the coming years.
Explaining the practicalities at the heart of his country’s green policies, he highlighted steps taken at government level to encourage all sectors to continue to innovate towards a common goal.
“The government has established policies on green shipping and we are putting the tools in place to help industry respond,” he said. “We work on the basis that what we did yesterday is not good enough, and what we deliver tomorrow will be better and that drives continued progress.”
“New power sources aren’t necessarily more dangerous than conventional ones, but there are more unknowns”
Norway was quick to implement battery technology to help slash emissions in and around its scenic fjords and the government is now working on a zero-emissions policy for 2023 to ensure all new ferry procurements are very low or zero-emissions projects. A similar policy will apply to high-speed passenger vessels from 2025 and other vessel types, including fish farming, cargo supply and offshore support, will face similar requirements in the years to come.
To facilitate this transition, the government has put in place various economic support packages to encourage the adoption of cleaner fuels and propulsion systems.
It is also assessing the possibility of introducing climate requirements for the public procurement of all sea transport services. “We, as a government agency, would include, low- and zero-emissions vessels in the transport services we use,” explained Mr Oftedal.
Beyond economic support, the government is keenly aware of the need for a robust regulatory infrastructure to support shipping as it moves towards clean energy.
“When we are attempting new things there are always barriers we need to overcome,” said Mr Oftedal. “For example, when it comes to introducing new fuels, we need to have infrastructure for all types of fuels, alongside the proper safety regulations. He stressed the need for a strong dialogue between all parties in this regard. “We have a very good dialogue [with] the private sector and that is key to resolving the various barriers we see in this transition.”
And that dialogue extends to other nations hoping to emulate Norway’s successes. “If other countries can learn from our approach, we are very happy to share our knowledge,” said Mr Oftedal. “But international co-operation goes both ways and we also want to learn from other countries; that is key to the solution – to learn from each other.”
Certainly, Norway has considerable knowledge to impart to those keen to follow in its footsteps, not just in terms of onboard technology, but also about the kind of energy ships will use, the distribution of that energy around the coastline and of course, the regulatory regime that will ensure the safe operation of these many new technologies.
Nowhere is that latter point more pressing than in the deployment of batteries on board vessels. A popular and growing propulsion technology, batteries come with problems of their own, including weight, storage and most importantly, explosion risk.
Discussing this issue during Riviera’s virtual conference, Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) surveyor – passenger vessels Arne Brathole explained the measures taken and planned by the NMA to ensure safety in this area.
“The implementation of new technology should not lower the safety level compared to a conventional ship,” he said. “At the same time, there is a need to promote and facilitate this new technology and make it available to a big share of the market. New power sources aren’t necessarily more dangerous than conventional diesel or even gas, but there are more unknowns.”
Mr Brathole explained that when introducing new power sources, a concept vessel receives certification via a process outlined in the IMO document, MSC circular 1455. He noted “This is an arduous process, which requires a high level of competence on a multitude of speciality fields.”
Once this process has been completed however, the NMA is able to use the experience and knowledge gained from the process to create specific guidance for the industry. For battery technology, this was achieved in 2016.
The NMA favours guidelines in such circumstances as opposed to regulations, as guidelines can be published more quickly and are easier to update. “They offer an efficient way to make a new technology available to the market quickly and safely,” said Mr Brathole.
“We work on the basis that what we did yesterday is not good enough and what we deliver tomorrow will be better”
For batteries, the NMA’s safety philosophy is to design a system which anticipates a thermal runaway – commonly referred to as ‘failing safely’ – and which protects against external influences, be that heat, mechanical damage, or saltwater.
But nothing beats first-hand experience in terms of actual learning, and the 2019 fire and subsequent explosion on board the hybrid car ferry Ytterøyningen provided a wealth of data on which to design and build superior safety equipment.
“In a situation like Ytterøyningen, where multiple cells have been heated to thermal runaway, there is unfortunately no silver bullet solution to the problem,” said Mr Brathole. “A gas-based extinguishing system requires shutting down the ventilation and while this might extinguish the fire, it will not prevent flammable gases accumulating in a room. At some point there is a need to ventilate a room filled with flammable gases.”
Thanks to this unfortunate, though valuable, first-hand experience, the NMA now advises freshwater be used in an extinguishing system, as this has the advantage of protecting the batteries from external heat while cooling that system.
Ytterøyningen also highlighted an absence of targeted training among both land-based first responders and those on board. Consequently, the Norwegian fire department has factored this into its training and the NMA is in the process of drafting guidelines for the seafaring community.
As is so often the case, it is by sharing such lessons that real progress can be made. “Sharing experiences is vital when working with safety, especially as regards new technology,” said Mr Brathole. “We are now in discussions with different class societies and have started sharing our experiences with other flags and even local fire departments.”
And while significant gains have been made over recent years, Mr Brathole is quick to note that much more is required to bring battery safety up to speed across the fleet. “We are not done working on safety for battery installations,” he said. “We are in the process of finding an equivalent and acceptable level of safety for smaller vessels in our fleet and making this technology easily available to all sectors. The 2016 guidelines are due to be revised next year and it is our intention to help owners find acceptable levels of training for their crew on board.”