What potential do marine batteries have for passenger shipping?

Cruise and ferry operators can use energy storage systems to meet their sustainability and operational goals, says Grant Brown, vice president of marketing at PBES

What potential do marine batteries have for passenger shipping?
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

The cruise and ferry industry has long strived to offer customers an innovative, safe and luxurious experience. Today, guests, regulators and the wider shipping industry are also pushing owners and operators to sail their vessels in a manner that has a minimal impact on the environment. The industry is responding to this call, with leaders such as Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International forming new sustainability pledges to ensure they are operating environmentally conscious businesses.

There is a plethora of technologies available to cruise and ferry owners and operators who are looking to improve environmental performance – including LNG, biofuels, renewables and exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers). A quiet environmental transformation is also underway in the industry courtesy of marine batteries.

A proven and commercially viable clean technology, marine energy storage delivers significant environmental benefits while positively impacting the bottom line for shipowners and operators. Marine batteries also promote a quieter, smoother journey for guests with cleaner air that further enhances their holiday experience.

Small expedition vessels are now actively procuring energy storage systems. For example, in 2016, Plan B Energy Storage (PBES) announced a new energy storage supply contract for the world’s two largest battery-powered ferries. Each of the passenger ferries will have 4.16 megawatt-hour batteries to provide power for primary propulsion. PBES’s energy storage system provides a higher level of safety and is part of its modernisation package for the vessels, which also includes an energy storage control system and onboard DC grid technology. The thermal management system constantly maintains optimal internal temperatures to maximise the lifespan of the batteries.

These ferries show that batteries have the capability to transform the operation of small passenger vessels. However, if the technology is to be rolled out on larger ships on a widespread basis, innovators in the battery industry need to address the unique challenges posed by these vessels. On a larger cruise vessel or fast ferry, for example, space and weight comes at a premium. To address these issues PBES has launched the Energy 100 (E100) energy storage system.

Complementary to PBES’s Power 65 offering, the new system is specially designed for commercial marine applications, decreasing the cost, weight and volume of the battery by 35%, while maintaining industry-leading quality and safety standards. As the trend for adventure travel continues to gain momentum, cruise and ferry operators are expanding itineraries and sailing more remote expedition routes, which will require vessels to use more power when idle away from port. PBES’ E100 solution is ideal for this use because it provides extended battery powered range compared to previous offerings.

Overall, the future looks bright for battery installations in the industry. As technology advances, smaller, safer and more powerful options continue to emerge, making battery power feasible for larger passenger vessels with more diverse operating profiles.


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