Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Unmanned Short Sea Cargo Carrier May be the Greener Freight Vessel of the Future

Respected Classification Society Unveils Tomorrows Feeder Fleet Today - With Video
Shipping News Feature

NORWAY – Researchers at classification society DNV GL have developed ReVolt, a short sea cargo ship that is said to be greener, smarter and safer than conventionally fuelled and operated vessels. With the concept ship still in testing, the autonomous, battery-powered vessel has been designed to alleviate the increased stress placed on land based logistics networks, by moving container freight on feeder routes, offering a solution to the growing need for transport capacity and the shackles of road haulage.

Instead of using diesel fuel, ReVolt is powered by a 3000 kWh battery. This reduces operating costs by minimising the number of high maintenance parts such as rotational components. The vessel has a range of 100 nautical miles, before the battery needs to be charged. If the energy required for that is harnessed from renewable sources, this would eliminate carbon dioxide emissions. A short video explaining the principles behind the vessel can be seen here.

ReVolt does not require a crew and therefore goes a long way in tackling one of the shipping industries’ weakest links: the safety record. With an average of 900 fatalities per year the mortality rate in shipping is 90% higher than in comparable land-based industries. The majority of these accidents are caused by human error, but unmanned vessels largely takes this factor out of the equation, as maintenance related human error could still be a factor if anything goes awry, and make the operation of these ships more cost-efficient.

With an overall length of 60m and a beam of 14.5m, the vessel has an average speed of 6 knots and faces less water resistance than other ships, which usually travel at about 8.7 knots. The slight loss of speed allowed the engineers to fit a straight vertical bow, further reducing water resistance along the ship’s entire profile and ultimately saving energy. The ship is equipped with self-steering and collision avoidance technology, as illustrated in the video.

With no crew, there is no need for crew facilities such as the superstructure on board this vessel. The resulting increase in loading capacity, as well as low operating and maintenance costs, mean that compared to a diesel-run ship ReVolt could save up to $34 Million during its estimated 30-year-life-time. Hans Anton Tvete, Senior Researcher at DNV GL, said:

“Building and operating this vessel would be possible with today’s technology. ReVolt is intended to serve as inspiration for equipment makers, ship yards and ship owners to develop new solutions on the path to a safe and sustainable future.”