Powering full speed ahead

Digitalization and electromobility are groundbreaking technologies. And Siemens supplies them to the maritime industry. What do these technologies involve? A lot – everything from a VR (virtual reality) solution and cutting-edge drive concepts to in-house battery assembling.

Digitalization and energy efficiency are trends that are transforming many industries. This is certainly true in Europe, where great progress has been made in combating climate change. To protect the environment, the EU is making huge investments to support the transition to a society that can live without fossil fuels. The maritime industry also steering a course for electromobility in the form of electro-powered drive solutions

In fact, Siemens has long maintained alternative drive solutions for the maritime industry in its portfolio. These cover purely electrical as well as hybrid drives, including ship and fleet management software. Battery production is a recent addition: In the near future Siemens and its Swedish partner Northvolt will be developing and producing “green” lithium-ion batteries, which lie at the heart of most electric drives.

Silent and emission-free

The latest forecasts show that the use of batteries in shipbuilding will double in the coming years. There are already numerous examples of successful ways in which modern, alternative drives are being used in the shipping industry. On ferries in Norway, among other things. In Sognefjord, Norway’s largest fjord, the Ampere thus transports visitors and locals in their cars between the villages of Lavik and Oppedal. The white giant docks at the piers up to 34 times a day to load its “freight.” So far, the Ampere has traveled a distance equal to circumnavigating the earth five times. Despite the batteries and a payload of up to 360 passengers and 120 cars, the Ampere weighs only half as much as conventional ferries. One could say that it’s a lightweight. The reason is a hull made of aluminum instead of steel, which greatly reduces fuel consumption. The two electric motors, which have a power output of 450 kilowatts each, could even put on a couple more kilos without reaching their limits. They’re powered by lithium-ion batteries with a total capacity of 1,000 kilowatt hours. To speed up loading while docked at the pier, Siemens has installed batteries on each quay. They support the charging stations and ensure that the tight schedule is strictly observed.

Hybrids: the best of two worlds

When just a bit more power is needed, for example on somewhat longer routes with no way to recharge the batteries, a hybrid unit is the perfect solution. A drive like the one on board the Elektra. Like the Ampere, this vessel is a ferry and the first Finnish ship equipped with an electric motor. Two 530-kilowatt-hour battery packs power the drive on the ferry’s route between Parainen and Nauvo. Three diesel generators serve as emergency power units for the 98-meter ferry. The drive is based on the Siship BlueDrive Plus C system from Siemens, which has a variable-speed generator set. 

 

Each of these generators was manufactured specifically for the ship and provides the necessary voltage over a wide range of frequencies. In practice, this system ensures that the diesel engines apply their full power to the load-dependent RPMs. At the same time, this is the biggest difference from a normal generator with a fixed rotational speed, which is used in conventional diesel-electric drives. After all, when the diesel generators run at their optimum load factor, fuel consumption is optimized.

Making full use of digitalization

In the age of digitalization, even more ways to optimize ship operation lie dormant in hardware and software solutions. The Siship eSiPOD electric propulsion system is available for mono and twin propeller ships. The drive assembly is mounted as a 360-degree rotatable nacelle on the ship’s hull, so that the vessel can be flexibly maneuvered.

 

With Siship eSiPOD’s new virtual reality display, the operators will in the future be able to familiarize themselves with the propulsion system before even coming on board. An eTraining program thus trains the service experts on a VR solutions. Digitalization facilitates not only crew training but that of fleet managers as well. For this purpose operating data of all relevant systems and plants on board are collected and prepared in the web-based Siship EcoMAIN data application. The data analyses show how the ship can be operated even more economically. This includes detailed information on energy consumption and emissions. Optimized maintenance schedules can also be developed based on the system. Another aspect that is paving the way to digitalization is the autonomous drive for vessels such as ferries. With the addition of special sensors, for example, self-driving ships in fjords are already reality. The technology is already at the starting gate where docking is concerned: In this case as well, additional sensors and smart control systems will save human labor in the future.

Optimistic view of the (near) future

Siemens is certain that electrification and the increasing use of batteries will form the basis for sustainable transportation technology. By 2025 alone, the majority of new ships built are likely to have a battery on board in one form or another. With its comprehensive portfolio of alternative drive solutions, Siemens is leading the way as one of the pioneers, giving stakeholders in the maritime industry the best options for optimally shaping and using this transformation.

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