While attention has been focused on the efforts to reduce
emissions from the big, ocean-going vessels, the shortsea and inland shipping
sectors have been presenting some of the first, innovative projects to achieve
carbon neutrality. The newest example is a hybrid propulsion concept presented
by the Finnish family-owned shipping company Meriaura, a transporter of
industrial dry bulk and general cargo in Northern Europe primarily in the
Baltic and North Sea areas.
The Meriaura Group has started the preparation and design of
a transport concept that targets 100 percent carbon neutrality. The concept is
based on hybrid propulsion that combines sustainably produced bio-oil and
battery technology. The project combines lessons learned from the group’s
previous bio-oil projects to achieve full greenhouse gas neutrality by
utilizing electricity propulsion based on renewable energy and batteries.
“Meriaura Group’s goal is to launch in 2024 the first
transportation concept based on renewable energy since the era of large sailing
ships,” says Jussi Malkia, President of Meriaura Group. The company currently
operates a fleet of 18 dry cargo ships and newly-built multipurpose deck cargo
carriers all designed to operate in the harsh and difficult weather conditions
of Northern Europe. Annually they carry about three million tons of cargo
ranging from grain, fertilizers, and feedstuff to biofuels, recyclables, forest
industry products and wood supply.
This new project seeks to incorporate the depth of the
company’s experience to produce a design for a vessel that not only
incorporates innovative energy solutions but also uses new technology including
digitalization to automate cargo handling.
According to the company, details and commercial operating
models are currently under development. The concept is being designed
especially for lake, canal and sea feeder traffic, and the plan is to pilot it
in lake Saimaa, located in southeast Finland.
“Lake Saimaa is a perfect pilot area for our concept,” says
Malkia. "The region’s strong and progressive industry needs a clear
transport route, which will be made possible by the extension of the canal
locks.” Meriaura’s project is being designed to the specifications of the lake
and its canal system. The goal is to complete the testing and move to
commercial operations by 2024.