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Moving Goods from Roads to Sea

Norwegian industry-led project Cargo Ferry is studying the possibility of moving one third of goods traffic near the coast from roads to shortsea shipping routes.

Shortsea Promotion Center Norway initiated the pre-project study last year as part of wider European efforts towards environmentally friendly transport. The EU has pledged to reduce long distance (greater than 300 kilometres) road haulage by 30% within 2030 by shifting transport from trucks to either rail or sea.

Shortsea Promotion’s plans are similarly ambitious on a national level. The Norwegian study aims to remove 250,000 trailer trucks from the roads and putting their 4-5 million tons of cargo per year on ships by 2020. The initiative would reduce truck traffic between coastal cities by one third and reduce greenhouse emissions significantly.

“We want to show Europe how it can be done,” says Hans Kristan Haram, Shortsea Promotion Center Norway managing director. “And we focus on coastal cargo.”

Automated Handling

Shortsea ships are primarily smaller vessels, with limited cargo capacity of up to 15,000 tons, with the majority between 1,000 and 5,000 tons. Typical vessels could be dry cargo ships, gas tankers, bulk carriers, tankers, chemical tankers, passenger ships, container ships, refrigerated ships, and RoRo ships. A short sea ship with a cargo capacity of 4,000 tons would free the roadways from around 150 lorries.

Shortsea Promotion is currently leading the MAROFF-funded project Cargo Ferry (GodsFergen) to assess the feasibility of building a 250 TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent) container ship with two automated cranes each capable of 20 lifts per hour. The vessel would load and unload cargo directly to the truck chassis at unmanned ports. Through this automation, the industry could reduce costs at ports down to one third.

“The biggest challenge is the inefficiency with cargo and container handling,” says Haram. “The main focus is on dock workers and automating the loading and discharge.”

The NOK 15 million project already has a number of commercial and research partners behind it, as well as the Norwegian authorities. Norwegian transport company operator Nor Lines is one of six logistics partners. Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute MARINTEK and Norwegian classification company DNV GL are conducting research on the concept vessel. Shipyard Fjellstrand is studying the possibility of using a twin hull (catamaran) vessel versus a mono hull, Rolls Royce and Seaway Innovation the ship design, and TTS crane innovation.

“The breakeven distance (versus trucks) currently is about 1,000 kilometres,” says Haram.  “We want to bring that down to 250 kilometres.”

New Maritime Strategy

Cargo Ferry’s partners are considering as a base case an LNG-fuelled vessel that is partly powered from shore with an expected start-up in 2016/2017. However, the project is dependent on an expected NOK 300 million per year in funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Transport in connection with the National Transport Plan.

An eventual funding would be in line with the eight priority areas under the Norwegian government’s new maritime strategy. Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Mæland announced this April (2014) the government would launch the new plan by next spring (2015) focusing on blue growth, international framework conditions, competence and education, research, development and innovation; environment, maritime traffic administration and simplification, trade area committee; and the High North area.

“The government has ambitious environmental targets for the maritime industry,” said Mæland. “Through this strategy the government also hopes to develop and demonstrate its own strategic plan for green shipping, including measures for promoting short sea shipping.”

As part of its environmental priority, the government will outline plans for green shipping that include LNG as a fuel source, energy effective fuel sources, innovation, and short sea shipping. Short sea is defined as transport of goods of all types and passengers between ports within a single continent, as well as transport between ports in Norway. It is estimated that 40% of internal transport in Europe is by sea.

Shortsea Promotion estimates its concept would offer substantial environmental benefits compared to trucks. Cargo Ferry would emit only 15-30 grams of COper ton-kilometre compared to 50-150 grams from trucks and 0.04 grams of NOX per ton-kilometre versus 0.46 grams. In total, it could save about close to EUR 100 million per annum in local pollution, noise, traffic jams, accidents, wear and tear, and CO2.


Drone Vessels

The Norwegian industry is also looking at other ways to target this market. Classification company DNV GL for example has developed a concept ship called ReVolt, an unmanned, battery-powered short sea alternative to conventionally fuelled and operated vessels. Unveiled in September 2014 at the SMM Trade Fair in Hamburg, the concept ship has a range of 100 nautical miles before its 3000 kWh battery needs to be charged and could even rely on renewable sources for recharging.

On top of its environmental benefits, the ship would help the industry lower maritime safety accidents — the majority of which are caused by human error — by having no crew. That would free up the need for crew facilities and related superstructure onboard the vessel. The company estimates ReVolt could save up to USD 34 million during a 30-year lifetime of the vessel from the increased loading capacity onboard, as well as low operating and maintenance costs. The concept-ship is currently still being tested

“ReVolt is intended to serve as an inspiration for equipment makers, shipyards and shipowners to develop new solutions on the path to a safe and sustainable future,” said Hans Anton Tvete, senior researcher at DNV GL.

Quick Facts:

Sea-going traffic constitutes 29% of all national traffic. Fortty percent of internal transport in Europe is by sea.  

Norwegian controlled short sea shipping creates values exceeding more than NOK 17 billion per year.

The fleet consists of nearly 1,800 vessels (offshore included). Half of the vessels are not sailing in Norwegian waters.

Source: Norwegian Shipowners’ Association