How hybrid technology is changing the maritime industry

How hybrid technology is changing the maritime industry

As our climate changes and ship emissions increase, the need for hybrid technology in the maritime industry has become more and more apparent. Many companies have already begun to develop hybrid and electric propulsion systems, and the market for these technologies should only increase as time goes on.

Vessel operators throughout the world now use these systems, and while this only represents the tip of the iceberg, we at Out2Sea know that it’s a sign of things to come. We wanted to devote this blog post to the major players in the world of hybrid technology and the changes this technology will bring to the maritime industry.


Ferries are some of the first ships to incorporate hybrid technology.

Who is developing and using hybrid technology?

There are several major players in the world of hybrid marine technology. Companies like General Electric and Siemens AG rank among the biggest leaders in terms of manufacturing and development. But due to the pressure on ports to reduce emissions, tug companies have become major early adopters.

While tug operators have looked to alternative fuels like LNG, incorporating the infrastructure required to use this fuel is quite expensive. Although hybrid technology comes with upfront costs of its own, they often run cheaper than the cost of installing an LNG system.

Kotug Smit Towage already operates a large hybrid fleet in Europe. Certain ports, like Port of Lulea, have hybrid tugboat orders scheduled to arrive in 2019 or 2020. In response, naval architects from companies like Wartsila have taken the lead in developing new hybrid tug designs. They anticipate increased demand for their products in the coming years.

Ferries are also using hybrid technology quite frequently. The high demand among ferry lines has caused Corvus Energy to expand its manufacturing of battery systems. The company just secured a 10-year contract to supply batteries to Scandlines, one of the largest ferry operators in Scandinavia. Color Lines, another ferry operator, has also chosen Corvus as an equipment manufacturer for its new Color Hybrid model.

How it works: A brief overview

Hybrid propulsion systems feature an electric motor and a diesel engine, both connected to the same gearbox. This allows the captain to easily switch between the two. The electric motor gets its energy from a battery box that has to be charged from time to time.

The battery box is what’s known as a stored energy source. It contains the electricity needed to run the ship’s propellor. Battery boxes can be charged fairly quickly while a ship is in port.

What do these developments mean?

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the amount of CO2 emitted by the shipping industry will likely increase 50 percent by 2050. The adoption of hybrid technology can help stem the tide of carbon emissions. Since ships don’t need to use bunker fuel when running on electricity, they don’t emit nearly as many greenhouse gases.

In addition to lower greenhouse gas emissions, noise and vibration from a ship’s engine could also decrease with hybrid technology. This can make the ship a better, more comfortable place to work, especially for those in the engine room.

There are certainly some costs that come with hybrid propulsion. For example, the engineers on a ship will have to receive training on a new system. Someone also has to spend the time installing the technology. But once installed, hybrid systems take up less space than traditional diesel propulsion systems. Hybrid ships also require minimal downtime for maintenance and service, since they do not need to refuel in the same manner as traditional diesel ships.

Of course, hybrids will sometimes have a sudden need to operate at peak power. During these times, the main engine can step in quickly to supply the necessary boost. This gives vessel operators enhanced flexibility – something only hybrids can provide.

Have you read our e-magazine yet? Our July issue just came out, and our September issue will cover trends in eco-friendly shipping. Read every issue by clicking here.

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