Chartwell: Workboat sector must consider operational profile

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Instead of waiting for breakthrough technological innovations to deliver low emission vessels, workboat operators have the opportunity to use the latest advances in hull design and alternative propulsion systems to achieve efficiency gains while tackling pollution problems in ports and other workboat sectors — and helping offshore wind to work toward emissions targets. This is the latest insight from Chartwell Marine, a pioneer in next generation vessel design.

The broader trend for workboats — which includes OESVS, tugs, pilot vessels, and survey vessels — in many key markets globally shows a clear and increasingly assertive move toward emissions reduction. The Clean Maritime Plan for net-zero emissions in domestic U.K. waters by 2050 is one example, while the EPA Tier 4 air quality regulations offers practical guidance at present for vessel operators in the U.S.

Hybrid designs are being trialed and successfully adopted across the industry and will continue to play a critical role in current and future decarbonization strategies. Chartwell Marine’s own vessel portfolio includes the Chasewell pilot and patrol boat and Scanwell survey vessel range — both with hybrid propulsion options.

But with all workboat types, the financial factor may well prove decisive. Reducing fuel burn and finding more efficient ways to work leads to increased profitability across vessel operations. Chartwell Marine warns that, although hybrid and electric solutions are ideally suited for some contexts, the operational profile of the vessel must be carefully considered. Designing vessels with end-user requirements in mind is a vital part of ensuring they act effectively.

The port sector has struggled with NOx pollution, produced in large part by vessel operations. There are many areas where hybrid propulsion offers clear benefits outside of the obvious emissions reduction. Hybrid propulsion systems are especially effective for vessels operating at reduced speeds, such as those working in and around ports. Reducing fuel burn in port dramatically, while using increased torque from a hybrid system, will improve operational efficiency for tug-boats, for example.

Hybrid technology is ideally suited for the survey sector as well due to dramatic reductions in acoustic interference. Quieter operations mean more accurate surveying, whether that is for scientific purposes, installation and maintenance of subsea infrastructure, or port dredging.

In offshore wind, there are clear incentives for the decarbonization of crew transfer vessels as the industry looks to bolster its green credentials. However, high-speed offshore wind CTVs are often less suitable for alternative propulsion because the power densities of energy sources such as batteries and hydrogen are not as efficient as diesel. In this case, smart and holistic vessel design is the most effective way forward. When a focus on the high-speed operational element prevails, Chartwell Marine looks toward the potential of using a combination of increased dynamic lift, active motion damping, and AI to increase operational efficiency.

“Alternative propulsion systems and energy sources are an exciting proposition, and in many operational contexts, already offer the best solution in terms of efficiency,” said Andy Page, managing director of Chartwell Marine. “But as global operators increasingly look to enhance the efficiency of their fleets, it’s worth considering that existing innovations in hull forms and other vessel technologies often have the greatest capacity to deliver savings.”

“A strategic element is in play here as a diverse set of markets look to reduce their emissions,” he said. “While it’s certainly encouraging that stimulus from above is spurring research and development in the workboat sector, it is ultimately up to naval architects, engineers, and vessel operators to enable the necessary efficiency savings to be made.”

Chartwell Marine was awarded a prize by the Carbon Trust last year for their part in designing an innovative new hull form for the Offshore Wind Accelerator competition and is working on the development and testing of technologies to aid the ongoing decarbonization of vessels.

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