Aug 16

Maersk Targets Idle Emissions and Noise Pollution With Electric Charging Buoys

Theo Normanton
Jan 26, 2022
The new stations will allow boats to top up their batteries using renewable electricity while moored to a buoy.
Image: Venti Views via Unsplash.

Shipping giant Maersk has announced the launch of an offshore vessel charging operation called Stillstrom. The company will provide electric charging to vessels at sea using enormous buoys.

Stillstrom – which means “quiet power” in Danish – aims to tackle both carbon emissions and noise pollution in one fell swoop. Most large ships waste fuel at sea by keeping their engines running while waiting for an available berth at port. This is necessary in order to power the electricity generators on board.

The maritime shipping industry has proven very tough to decarbonise. This is because battery technology is not yet advanced enough to power heavy container ships over long distances in a range of weather conditions in a cost-effective way.

The CEO of port operator D.P. World recently endorsed green hydrogen as a potential fuel for long-haul shipping. But there are no prospects of green fuels being introduced to shipping any time soon. This makes the Stillstrom initiative for eliminating idle emissions particularly significant.

“Our vision at Stillstrom is to enable maritime decarbonisation by providing the infrastructure that will allow vessels to charge from clean energy when idle offshore. The mission is to remove 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 within five years of commercial rollout, additionally eliminating particulate matter, NOx, and SOx,” said Sebastian Klasterer Toft, Venture Programme Manager at Maersk Supply Service.

In addition to reducing the carbon footprints of large ships, Stillstrom’s charging stations promise to reduce noise pollution. Ships will moor to charging buoys and switch off their loud engines while replenishing their batteries. This should help reduce the damage to marine animals, which are disoriented by noise produced by maritime shipping.

Additionally, Stillstrom aims to build the first ever offshore charging point powered by a wind farm as early as the end of 2022. The project is a collaboration with Danish energy provider Orsted, with funding from the Danish Maritime Fund and the EU.

This is the latest in a spree of exciting partnerships for Orsted, the world’s top offshore wind power developer, in a drive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. The company has announced plans to power Facebook and McDonald’s with clean energy from U.S. offshore wind farms. More recently, it has partnered with Germany’s Salzgitter on the production and use of low-carbon steel.

Renewable energy is difficult to store and transport, which is why initiatives allowing it to be consumed at the source, like vessel charging stations at offshore wind farms, are something of a game changer. This cleantech solution is still in its early stages and will take a long time to catch on, but it’s a very promising development. Watch out for more bobbing yellow buoys near Europe’s biggest industrial ports in the years to come.

Theo Normanton

Theo Normanton covers tech, ESG and the circular economy, with a particular interest in the markets of Russia and the CIS.

Tweets at: @TheoNormanton

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