Bigger than the introduction of the shipping container? Stena’s modular hybrid bulk carrier could revolutionise the shipping trades
Tanker shipping company Stena Bulk has unveiled its concept InfinityMAX hybrid bulk carrier design, pushing the boundaries for zero-carbon, multi-modal vessel design in shipping.
The InfinityMAX concept, which is designed to carry both dry and wet cargoes in modular compartments, is built with several new core principles that, accumulatively, represent a paradigm shift in cargo transportation.
The ultra-flexible, zero-emissions design has been created in response to the huge challenges the global shipping industry must overcome in the coming decades. The design envisions a world in which the shipping industry plays a crucial role in supplying renewable energy, chemicals, materials, and consumables for its never-ending needs.
In a proposed advancement that could be considered as impactful as containerisation was for intermodal freight trade, the creation of standardised and modular cargo units that can carry dry bulk, liquid bulk or liquified gas products – such as methane, hydrogen or ammonia – will significantly streamline the process of transporting wet and dry bulk cargoes.
Each of the InfinityMAX’s modular cargo units are designed to be self-sufficient in terms of their energy use, with wind turbines and solar panels generating the electricity needed for internal systems.
The modular units have also been designed to be dropped off outside ports and picked up by tugs, avoiding congestion and reducing call times dramatically.
The InfinityMAX concept will use hydrogen as a marine fuel and wind turbines to generate further energy. Collapsible wing sails and a shark-skin hull have also been incorporated in the concept design to significantly improve efficiency.
Although the vessels will be crewed for safety and flexibility reasons, Stena Bulk has designed the InfinityMAX concept to be semi-autonomous and meet the future demand of efficient operations without compromising safety.
InfinityMAX will also improve crew wellbeing on board, for a sustainable working environment. As a result, InfinityMAX has the potential to change the role of onboard crew, with less hard labour and more focus on monitoring and interaction with operators ashore.
Stena Bulk president and chief executive Erik Hånell said “We are extremely proud to unveil our InfinityMAX-concept vessel design, which we believe pushes the boundaries for the future of our industry. What we are proposing here is innovative, provocative and would radically reshape the way we think about bulk trade, rationalising two segments with complimentary expertise into one shipping segment that is ready for the challenges of the future.
“The application of advanced technologies – including hydrogen fuel and other efficiency measures – means this is a vessel concept that proves our core philosophy that innovation is key to commercial success, given the challenges that we all face. We will continue to work closely with our innovation partners, leaving no stone unturned to ensure the right advances happen to make the InfinityMAX concept a reality.”
In effect, the InfinityMAX drives improved world fleet utilisation and the potential for more standardised supply chains, as well as reducing the unnecessary environmental impact of empty tanks being shipped around the world in search of new cargo.
By 2050, the growing need for transporting energy from areas with abundant renewable supply to areas with large energy demand – carried as hydrogen, methanol, methane, and ammonia – will be a defining part of international trade. This, combined with the requirement to transport sustainable, edible oils and chemicals, and carbon dioxide from carbon-capture facilities, as well as bulk commodities, requires a vessel design that is up to the challenge of a radically reformed global economy.
With the right level of matured technologies, Stena Bulk believes that an InfinityMAX vessel could come into service between 2030 and 2035. To achieve this, a strengthened and sustained collaborative spirit between industry and technology leaders is a necessity in the coming years.