European ro-ro shipping specialist UECC is continuing its efforts to upgrade its fleet with low-carbon vessels with the launch of the second in a series of three LNG battery hybrid new-builds at a Chinese yard.
The pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) was launched at Jiangnan Shipyard just over a year after the first steel was cut, with the yard and shipowner having had to overcome manpower and logistical challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic to maintain the delivery schedule.
Hull number H2664 hit the water in a launch ceremony at the Shanghai yard on August 16 and is due for final delivery, along with a third vessel, in the first half of 2022. The first unit, launched earlier this year, is set to be delivered later this autumn after final commissioning.
UECC has been a front-runner in adapting hybrid technology for the car carrier shipping segment in pursuit of lower CO2 emissions, building on a pair of pioneering dual-fuel LNG-powered PCTCs that have been in commercial operation for the past four years.
“The intention was to further improve on these two E-class vessels, Auto Eco and Auto Energy, by rationalizing fuel consumption through the use of hybrid battery power,” explained head of ship management and newbuilding, Jan Foss. He added that the yard “responded to the challenge” by employing Jiangnan Shipyard Group’s internal design firm to carry out engineering work to adapt the hybrid technology, supplied by WE Tech of Finland, for the new-build project.
“There have been a number of technical challenges to overcome, such as streamlining the shaft generator for a dual-fuel engine and determining whether the bow thruster could run on battery power when entering and leaving port,” Foss noted.
The shaft generator enables the vessel to recharge its batteries while at sea so it can run the bow thruster in and out of port solely on battery power, contributing to reduced emissions in line with port authority requirements. Battery power on the vessels will also improve operational efficiency and further reduce emissions through peak shaving, in addition to handling partial accommodation load and driving auxiliary equipment.
The use of a battery hybrid solution will, it is claimed, enable UECC to exceed the IMO target to reduce its carbon intensity by 40% from 2008 levels by 2030. The use of LNG will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by around 25%, SOX and particulate matter by 90% and NOX by 85%; the new-builds will also meet IMO’s Tier 3 NOX emissions limitations for the North Sea and Baltic Sea.
Foss highlighted that the new-build program remains on schedule despite significant logistical hurdles due to lockdown and travel restrictions, which have led to difficulties in procuring equipment from global suppliers and hit manpower capacity for construction work, which requires hundreds of workers.
“The new-builds were contracted in 2019, just before the pandemic broke out, so fortunately we had equipment vendors in place. But the main challenge has been getting service engineers into China,” he said. “We were initially forced to set up a temporary site team comprising solely Chinese nationals to get the new-build project moving as flights into the country were canceled. It has also been necessary to use digital tools such as conferencing apps to supervise the project remotely. The yard has performed exceptionally well to reallocate labor resources to maintain progress on the project.”
Once delivered, the new-build trio will give UECC five eco-friendly PCTCs in its 17-vessel fleet.