Stena, Latsco and UECC on practicality of decarbonisation

Mar 11 2021

Senior representatives of Latsco, Stena Teknik and UECC shared perspectives on the practicality of decarbonising shipping, at a webinar organised by DNV GL.

Harry Robertsson, technical director of Stena Teknik, Stena’s internal technical advisory company, said he was optimistic about the shipping industry reaching IMO’s 2050 greenhouse gas target.


This is on the basis that with each newbuilding, the company generally achieves a 30 per cent improvement, in comparison with the ships being replaced.


Stena’s fleet totals 149, owned, chartered and managed vessels and drilling rigs, including new buildings. This includes 81 tankers, 3 shuttle tankers, 3 LNG tankers, 2 drilling rigs, 4 drill ships, 34 ropax vessels and 10 roro vessels.


“Some of the ships we are ordering today will be around in 2050, possibly running on bio or [other] fossil free fuel,” he said.


“There's a lot of technology needed for 2050 reduction targets that is already in place.”


“We will see other types of arrangements. Propulsion will be most probable by electric motors, powered by batteries, fuel cells or ordinary gensets running on some kind of fossil free fuel.”


Although he noted “the most efficient decarbonisation is fuel which is not consumed.”


“There will be developments in ship design and trading patterns which show that speed will be reduced. That will reduce consumption from ships even more.”


Improving ships

“We are working continuously to make sure ships are running as efficient as possible,” he said.


Stena has already tried methanol fuel and biofuels, and batteries. “We are evaluating almost everything you can imagine, trying to turn every stone,” he said.


Its vessel Stena Jutlandica has a 1MWh battery on board, enough to run bow thrusters and to manoeuvre in port. “The battery pack has worked excellent since day 1,” he said.


The ultimate goal is for the Stena Jutlandica to operate fully on battery power, requiring an estimated 50 MWh of stored energy for the 3 hours and 25-minute crossing from Gothenburg (Sweden) to Frederikshavn (Denmark). 


“We’re looked at fully electric ropax for routes up to 50 nautical miles. [But] we haven't found an economically feasible solution to run the ship on electricity through the Archipelago.”


For longer routes, if the company decides to go for zero carbon propulsion,  “we think we'll go for fuel cells,” he said.


“We have been running the world's biggest ROPAX on methanol without any problems. We think methanol is an excellent fuel, with the same characteristics as LNG, except a higher energy consumption when we produce it. It is easier to store and handle.”


“Methanol can be produced in many ways. So definitely a pathway to non-fossil shipping.”


“We're running LNG carriers on LNG with good experience. But we haven't been able to find any suitable Stena routes to run on LNG. The investment in existing ships is too high and logistics [LNG supplies] is not fully developed in our areas.”


Biofuels “have been successful, no problem at all,” he said. The company reported a successful trial with biofuel replacing ordinary fuels on 50,000 dwt tanker Stena Immortal, running for 10 days in Spring 2020.


“We think biofuel might be the lowest hanging fruit to decarbonise our existing fleet,” he said. “The main challenge is availability, standardisation and price.”


In terms of IMO’s 2050 rules, the overall ambitions are well known. “Now we need to know how it will be measured - by ship, country, by company or some other way,” he said.


“This is not only a technical issue. [Commercially] we are not able to cover this huge transition by ourselves.”


“We are operating in a world that is changing dramatically. But we have always been operating in such a world. In the 1980s, shipping looked very different to today.


“I have a personal example - in the beginning of the 1980s my father was master of a newbuild chemical tanker 35,000 dwt. There were difficulties to find a terminal that could handle that size of vessel. Today 35,000 dwt is quite common.”


Latsco Marine Management

Kostas Vlachos, COO, Latsco Marine Management, said that decarbonising shipping is “a very big challenge”, when currently only a tiny number of ships have dual fuel engines.


Latsco Marine Management operates 29 vessels - 18 product tankers and 11 gas carriers.


“The expectations are that only 20-40 per cent of the world shipping will be fitted with a dual fuel engine by 2050.”


With the switch from diesel to LNG power meaning a 20 per cent drop in CO2 emissions, this would mean a 4 to 8 per cent reduction, not a 50 per cent reduction.


“This, along with all the other measures that already have to be taken - operation and technological measures - make me not to be optimistic that by 2050 the aspirations of IMO will be fulfilled,” he said.


“The owners need to invest and therefore they are looking to the customers (charterers), the regulators, the financial people, to see if they will support this common action,” he said. “Otherwise these aspirations will not be fulfilled.”


In conclusion, what is needed, other than regulations, is “financiers to get the risk appetite to fund, we need clarity on which fuels will be used in future, we need regulations on targets and a timeline as soon as possible.”



“For all our new buildings built after 2012, we have applied all the technological improvements that exist in the market. Main engine improvements, auxiliary system improvements, waste heat recovery, air lubrication [of hulls], hull coating, shaft generators. With all of them we have succeeded to reduce 18-20 per cent CO2.”


The company’s project to use air lubrication under the hulls is working together with a shipyard, class society and oil major.


“We are in the process and really we have made good progress to reduce the capital cost,” he said.  “The cost is $12m more than a conventional vessel. We are trying to reduce this barrier.”


The company has a project to explore the use of LPG as fuel, for the LPG vessels.


“We have found a lot of obstacles in that decision,” he said. “Classification societies are not ready [with a rules system for LPG fuel].”


“What's disappointing to me, the flag state or class society is not proactive in welcoming the new fuel and seeing through its implementation,” he said. “That's a barrier we've encountered.”


“We need the support of charterers. Not from a financial point of view, but  from understanding we have to change something in commercial operations, to use part of the cargo as the fuel. These are matters we believe will be resolved.”


Mr Vlachos said that he does not believe that we will see a replacement for the combustion engine before 2050 for ships. “Technologies are not yet proven. As everybody knows, for a new technology, we need 10 years for the breakthrough, another 20 years for testing.”


“I am not pessimistic but looking at the data we have currently on the table, we need a faster growth in order to see this replacement in 2050.”


There could also be fire concerns related to batteries, he said.



Mr Vlachos is not an enthusiast of the European Union planning to bring shipping into its Emission Trading Scheme.


“We have seen in this major matter, unilateral decisions by the EU. This unilateral solution is a big obstacle to the pathway for decarbonisation, this is my opinion.”


“I don't go to the discussion why the decisions are taken, but I go to the result. It is not only the different timelines, the most important is the different standards.”



Daniel Gent, energy and sustainability manager, with United European Car Carriers, based in Oslo, said that the IMO’s targets “are ambitious but not impossible”.


UECC has 16 medium sized pure car and truck carriers (PCTC) with loading capacity ranging from 1,060 to 4,750 car equivalent units, including two dual fuel LNG vessels. It is building 2 more LNG “battery hybrid” LNG vessels.


“We're starting to see gains in carbon intensity, heading towards the 2030 target with some of our vessels,” he said.


Having targets can be helpful. “Shipping is a very traditional kind of market, it has something that has worked well for a long time - and hasn't wanted to move without a push.”


Shipping has made some big steps already. “What we put on our vessels now would be unthinkable a few years ago, in particular biofuels. We found we could do it without great changes to CAPEX.”


“The way we need to look at it - the vessels which we're building today are likely to be operating in 2050. So the ships we build today need to be ideally [capable of] operating carbon neutrally.


“We also need to invest in fuels”.


When asked what he thought the biggest barriers to low carbon shipping were, Mr Gent said cost. “Decarbonisation won't be cheap. It certainly hasn't been so far for us.”


It would help if customers could get involved, as well as port authorities, who would be needed to get supplies of new fuels encouraged in their ports.


It would be helpful to see a shift in end user attitudes towards decarbonisation, so they are willing to spend money on it. “It is one of the things consumers are willing to talk about. But they don't want to support it in a meaningful way,” he said.


Mr Gent thinks it is unlikely we'll see an end to use of internal combustion engines by 2050. “The ICE has worked well. On a much smaller scale - below 2000 or 3000 dwt, maybe a bit of a different question.”


Also, “we need to be careful not to close doors too early for alternative fuels,” he said. “We've proven the engines can handle all kinds of fuel and do so in a carbon neutral way.”


On the introduction of shipping to the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme, Mr Gent said “localism isn't a new thing in our industry. We've had emission control areas for over a decade. We've seen other [non global] regulations come in, discharge of water from vessels operating in scrubbers, Ballast discharge.


“But of course, it can make a shipowner nervous, to invest in complying with one regulation when another regulation can come into force.”


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