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"Nuclear power would be a solution for the largest ships"

Shipping is struggling with the future.

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"Nuclear power would be a solution for the largest ships"

Shipping is struggling with the future. Large container ships, tankers or bulk carriers, costing 100 to 200 million dollars, are built for service periods of 20, 30 or more years. But which propulsion technology should the huge ships be equipped with at a time when the goals and constraints of climate protection change almost every year? The engines of the large seagoing vessels, some of which weigh more than 2000 tons, cannot simply be replaced - in case of doubt the entire ship would become unprofitable.

The question of fuels and climate protection was the focus of this year's Hansa Forum for ship financing in Hamburg, one of the most important international conferences in the shipping industry. The range of options seems large when shipping companies order new ships today and have to decide on their drives and fuels: classic heavy fuel oil - used today with exhaust gas filters, could drive the ship, but also deep-frozen, liquefied natural gas (LNG). And increasingly also biofuels and synthetic fuels such as ammonia and methanol based on “green”, regeneratively produced hydrogen.

However, no one knows exactly how the legal regulations for international shipping will develop in the coming years - and with it the supply of fuels that shipping companies around the world must have available in comparable quality. "We expect that petroleum-based fuels will continue to play a significant role in shipping for decades to come," said Andrew Wilson, head of energy research at ship brokerage firm Barry Rogliano Salles (BRS).

Shipping must therefore keep an eye on the splitting off and underground storage of carbon dioxide as an option for fossil fuels. And also nuclear power: "Nuclear power could be a solution for propelling the world's largest ships."

Charles Darr from the world's largest container liner shipping company MSC pointed out that according to current estimates, the shipping industry will have to invest a total of around 1.65 trillion dollars in order to even come close to climate-neutral operations. "For a complete decarbonization of shipping, we need significantly higher investments than today in research and development," he said.

The Italian shipping company MSC, based in Switzerland, which also operates 21 large cruise ships, now also uses LNG and biofuels on some of its container ships - and in the coming years it wants to be able to react as flexibly as possible to synthetically produced ammonia or methanol when it comes to engine technology.

The French shipping company CMA CGM and its German competitor Hapag-Lloyd also use LNG on some of their ships. The Danish shipping company Mærsk, on the other hand, wants to rely on synthetically produced methanol on a larger scale.

The Hartmann shipping company in Leer is also flexible when it comes to fuels. The family business operates container ships, gas tankers and bulk carriers. In the case of gas tankers, for example, it may be a good idea to operate the ships with the same gases that they transport themselves, said Jan-Lars Kruse, Managing Director of Hartmann Shipping Services. "We have to work very closely with everyone involved in our industry, from the engine manufacturers to the shipping companies to those who charter our ships," said Kruse, "in order to be able to bear the costs of the necessary transformation in the energy supply of the ships."

Two things in particular are needed for this: international regulation that gives shipping a precise and competitive orientation for its investments. There is still a lack of that today, said Kruse. And ultimately, everyone involved in the transport chain must be willing to pay more in order to make new technologies marketable. So, in the end, so do the consumers.

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