With the mega-ship CMA-CGM Jacques Saadé now in service, the use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a fuel for seagoing vessels is now a reality. This 23,000 TEU ship’s propulsion systems are powered by LNG, an energy source that allows a 20 to 40% reduction in CO2 emissions, and also emits low levels of sulphur oxides and fine particulate matter. The Mozambique Canal boasts vast LNG resources that could drive this energy transition, and the port cities of the Indian Ocean are preparing for the revolution. One example is Longoni (Mayotte, France), which is redeveloping as a support base for the industry. On the other side of the Canal, the terminals at Durban (South Africa) are being upgraded to handle LNG. Demand is high, with India expressing an interest in this cleaner form of energy. A substantial volume of LNG extracted will pass through Indian ports. Meanwhile, Total is maintaining its major investment (13 billion euros) in the province of Cabo Delgado (Mozambique), despite attacks by terrorist groups in Mocimboa da Praia. The company is also set to collaborate with Siemens on LNG turbines.
According to recent studies, the “smart port” market is set to be worth 14 billion dollars by 2027. Artificial intelligence, automation, blockchain, and the Internet of Things all offer possibilities for improving the efficiency of port installations. Incidentally, AIVP has previously touched on these issues in an interview for the European programme “Speed”.
The port of Rotterdam (Netherlands) has created a coalition to develop AI, which includes the Muncipality of Rotterdam, InnovationQuarter, Netherlands Maritime Technology and TU Delft university. Blockchain is among the priority technologies, as seen with the “Distro” platform, also in the Netherlands, which allows electricity to be bought and sold via blockchain. In Busan (South Korea), the City Authorities have signed a MoU with the Port, universities and a technology centre to develop smart technologies as part of the South Korean Government’s “Digital New Deal” strategy. These technologies are also being developed through competitive events such as “Hackathons”. One such event took place on 14 October, organised by Ports de Lille (France) in partnership with the “Speed” programme, on the “digital and environmental revolution”.
The future seems to lie with “green” hydrogen, made from non-fossil based electricity. It would require a virtuous chain between renewable energies and hydrogen production plants, to which city-port ecosystems are particularly suited.
In that vein, the Port of Bordeaux (France) has signed an agreement to develop a green hydrogen production industry locally. It is a similar story in Bilbao (Spain), where the port authority has given the go-ahead for construction of one of the world’s largest green hydrogen plants.
These industries are often organised in the form of hubs like the one at Port Kembla (New South Wales Port Authority, Australia, helping to stimulate the local economy.
Mass-produced hydrogen could power ships and help to improve the environmental footprint of maritime shipping. To that end, some companies are researching hydrogen-based propulsion systems, including Engie and ArianeGroup which have joined forces. Prototypes of hydrogen engines are even now being tested by the Italian company Fincantieri.
There is a real market for this new fuel, as can be seen with the agreement that will see Portugal supply green hydrogen to the Port of Rotterdam, which needs the resource for its future operations.