Is this the most sustainable ship in the world?

As the International Maritime Organisation struggles to stay afloat amidst a barrage of calls to establish a global shipping initiative, a new 10-mast cruise liner that harnesses solar and wind power may just have set the benchmark for the sector.

While global sectors pushed forward to establish legally-binding goals at the historic Paris climate conference, the maritime and aviation sector has been left in dark, as international trade bodies drag their feet over creating global emission reduction standards.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been a concerted effort from businesses across this sector to ignite a low-carbon transition. The aviation sector continues to explore the potential of biofuels, while a coalition of businesses and NGOs including AkzoNobel, Unilever and WWF, have established the Sustainable Shipping Initiative.

But with emissions from the aviation and maritime sector set to rocket by 250% without international guidance, a new sustainability benchmark is needed. To answer the call, Japanese organisation Peace Boat is about to introduce its Ecoship design, which could cut carbon emissions from cruise voyages by 40%.

On Tuesday (6 September) Peace Boat – a non-profit company – signed a memorandum of understanding with Norwegian technical advisors DNV GL to develop the Ecoship in time for its maiden voyage in 2020.

Sustainability on the seven seas

The concept was originally unveiled at COP21, when the world’s largest solar boat played host to six environmental conferences and events during the conference. But while the “Race for Water” boat is being used for expeditions, the Ecoship will carry around 5,000 passengers on educational trips to promote human rights and sustainable development in-line with Peace Boat’s ethos.

“The cruise industry is growing so fast, particularly in East Asia, and the need to mitigate the environmental impact of such expansion is very important,” Peace Boat’s founder Yoshioka Tatsuya said. “Through its technical characteristics and in the programmes that it carries out we hope it will encourage a model for ‘green’ cruising and further innovations in the cruise industry.”

But where the Ecoship really sets itself apart from other low-emission vessels, is the sheer number of sustainability innovations and resources that it draws from to enhance performance, lower emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

The 55,000 tonne ship will have 10 retractable solar-panelled sails and retractable wind generators to produce renewable energy which is used to power a hybrid propulsion engine. Its upper hull will be designed in line with a whale’s appearance and with aerodynamics in-mind. The external frame of the boat will be coated in a way that mimics fish skin to reduce drag and reserve fuel.

Great showcase for the industry

The project owners claim that utilising these methods will cut emissions from voyages by 40% compared to traditional methods. But when you add the ships closed-loop water system and energy recycling capabilities it’s hoped that 80% of the energy normally lost through air and water can be reclaimed for reuse.

In low-wind conditions the 6,000m2 top deck “solar farm” will generate 740Kw of power. While the aerodynamic design will aim to reduce how much of this energy is lost during the voyage, an advanced, low-consumption HVAC system will funnel the majority of waste energy from the main engines to be used for air conditioning and reduce electricity load by 50%.

A closed-loop water system will aim to ensure that waste water on-board the Ecoship is purified, re-purposed and reused. Rainwater and seawater will both be harvested to supplement and irrigate on-board gardens – filled with plants from across the planet.

Ecoship will operate with zero-water discharge (zero NOx and SOx emissions) and zero-sea dumping policies in order to boost its sustainability credentials. Any waste produce formed in the kitchens will either be composted in the gardens, or turned to biofuel to act as an alternative fuel source.

“It’s very special to work with a customer, who is so in tune with the values of DNV GL,” DNL GL’s chief executive Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen said. “Their emphasis on sustainability, achieved through innovative approaches and the smarter use of technology, matches our own – and this project could be a great showcase for the industry. It is a privilege to be part of this.”

The Ecoship was one of six pioneering projects to be featured in edie’s green innovation round-up this week. To learn more about Ecoship, as well as solar-powered space trains and New York’s underground parks, click here.

Matt Mace

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