Premiere start-up at the BLG car terminal At first glance, the brand-new car transporter "Auto Advance", which was unveiled on Sunday morning (16.1.) arrived in Bremerhaven via the Kaiserschleuse as part of its maiden voyage, looks like any other ship of this class. But what's special about this new vehicle is not just the LNG drive, but also the combination with hybrid technology on board, as indicated by the green lettering on the side of the vehicle. The Portuguese-flagged "Auto Advance" is the world's first LNG hybrid car carrier, which was put into service for the Norwegian RoRo shipping company UECC in November, with two more sister ships ("Auto Achieve" and "Auto Aspire") to follow in the first half of the year. The shipping company UECC is jointly owned by the Japanese shipping company NYK and the Swedish Wallenius Lines.
The 169-meter-long and 28-meter-wide car and truck transporter (PCTC) with a capacity for 3,600 vehicles on 10 cargo decks was built under construction number H 2663 at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai, China. After delivery in November last year, the newbuilding first set course for Japan to take on the cargo of new vehicles. The ship then set off on its transfer voyage to Northern Europe, where it first moored in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. In Bremerhaven, the ship, which still operated here under the flag of the NYK shipping company, discharged about 1.100 Far East imports under the direction of NYK. After the official takeover by UECC in Bremerhaven, the "Auto Advance" will then set course for Drammen in Norway in the next few days with mainly vehicles from German manufacturers. According to the current schedule, the "Auto Advance" will be in regular service between Drammen, Vigo in Spain, Zeebrugge and Bremerhaven and is expected to arrive in the seaport every 14 days.
"After placing the very first dual-fuel LNG PCTCs into service five years ago ("Auto Eco" and "Auto Energy"), UECC has taken the first of three of the world's first dual-fuel LNG battery hybrid PCTC built. This is another big step forward in environmentally friendly ship operation, which shows that we are on the right track," said Glenn Edvardsen, CEO of UECC recently when he took delivery of the ship in China.
In doing so, UECC says it has taken the lead in the PCTC segment by working with classification society DNV and Shanghai Merchant Ship Design& Research Institute developed the breakthrough design to integrate proven technology into a new configuration focused on improving operational and environmental performance.
LNG battery hybrid technology, together with optimized hull design, will enable improved fuel efficiency in these newbuildings, even surpassing the IMO requirement to reduce CO2 intensity by 40% from 2008 levels by 2030. The use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by around 25%, SOx and particulate matter by 90% and NOx by 85%, and the newbuildings will also meet IMO NOx emission limits for the North and Baltic Seas.
This newbuild will combine dual-fuel engine technology with an energy storage system (ESS) from Finnish company WE Tech, which includes a battery pack from Corvus Energy that is charged by a permanent magnet, direct-drive shaft generator or dual-fuel generators. The hybrid solution, which received the Battery Safety notation from DNV, is controlled by an intelligent energy management system from Kongsberg Maritime, which serves as the control system for all energy generation and consumption – essentially the ship's "energy brain". In doing so, the batteries can be charged most efficiently at sea using the wave generator so that they are fully charged when entering port.
"This will effectively eliminate emissions in port and these vessels are also designed to connect to shore-based green power, which is becoming increasingly available to reduce harmful emissions of NOx, SOx and particulate matter," said Jan Thore Foss, head of UECC's ship management and newbuilding departments. Operational flexibility can lead to significant fuel efficiency gains, and Foss believes that this, combined with a low emissions profile, will give ships an advantage in the European market, as the EU's plans to include shipping in the emissions trading scheme will increase the cost of polluting ships.
UECC's energy and sustainability manager, Daniel Gent, commented, "LNG is currently the most environmentally friendly and widely used low-carbon fuel, with an estimated emissions reduction of around 25% compared to other fossil fuels. Therefore, we use the best fuel solution currently available and combine it with hybrid technology to further reduce emissions. But we're not locked into LNG, and these dual-fuel engines can also use alternative low-emission fuels such as biofuel, bio-LNG and synthetic LNG when they become commercially and technically viable.
According to UECC CEO Edvardsen, this is currently the only shipping company in its regional market segment investing in sustainable newbuildings. "UECC has already significantly reduced the CO2 intensity of its fleet, but we are aiming for much more".
Norwegian ro-ro shipping company UECC (United European Carriers), founded 31 years ago, currently operates a fleet of 17 pure car and truck transport vessels in the short-haul sector in trade lanes to Northern and Western Europe. At the same time, as Germany's largest car port, Bremerhaven is one of the central hubs for traffic to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Poland.