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SMTC 2021: Electrification of Singapore bunker tankers and harbour craft in government pipeline, says SMI

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Repost: The following interview arranged by Informa Connect is part of pre-event coverage for the upcoming Singapore Maritime Technology Conference 2021 (SMTC 2021), where Manifold Times is an official media partner.

It is only a matter of time before Singapore’s bunker tanker and harbour craft population start considering the use of electrification technologies for propulsion, forecasts the Executive Director at Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI).

Dr Sanjay Kuttan was in a recent interview with Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times when he shared details of the government’s green initiatives for the local bunkering and harbour craft community.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and SMI issued a joint Call-For-Proposals (CFP) exercise for the electrification of harbour craft in September 2020; a total of 16 companies participated in the joint CFP where seven proposals were shortlisted for consideration.

“We are now heading towards the end of the evaluation period for these projects that will design, build and operate a fully- electric harbour craft, including their supporting electrical charging infrastructure around the Singapore port,” reveals Dr Kuttan.

“We hope that up to three electrification projects will be awarded and approved by the third quarter of 2021 if not sooner. At the end of the day, it is all about the economics of these projects to enable scalable operational solutions and to offer support to our local maritime sector to capture new opportunities arising from the sustainability wave.”

Dr Kuttan is convinced of the environmental benefits offered by electrification technologies but was quick to add commercial factors have also been among key considerations in the Singapore government’s push towards greener maritime technologies.

“The business model for Singapore’s maritime sector to adopt electrification is very important and must make sense. In short, we are working to maintain our status as an attractive shipping hub for the global maritime ecosystem,” he explains.

“In the future, we anticipate the green supply chain to be a key prerequisite of international trade and therefore these efforts are important in helping our local shipping companies to remain relevant and continue their commercial involvement with international maritime trading parties.

“Specifically, we believe major clients will be demanding for access to a green supply chain in the future. So, if Singapore’s harbour craft, including bunker tankers, are green they will have a greater chance to be a factor in the green supply chain equation and secure business from international players.”

“This applies to everything else supporting the ship arriving in the Singapore Port that includes the provision of goods and services, all of which adds to the carbon footprint of the supply chain and therefore will need to be managed carefully.”

The cost of implementing battery technologies onboard vessels has also been steadily decreasing through the years.

Dr Kuttan cited a Bloomberg report which informed the price of a battery pack (volume-weighted average) dropping from the cost of USD 1,191 per kilowatt hour from 2010 to USD 137 per kilowatt hour in 2020.

“The drop in cost of battery packs is from the trickle down effect as a result of research and innovation driven by the automotive sector and to the increasing production of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,” he notes.

“Also, if battery energy density continues to improve we could one day see a bunker tanker become a floating charging station for electric harbour crafts or even short sea vessels. This is a practical consideration due to the lack of shore-side land space for shore-side charging around the Singapore port.

“The whole shipping industry, including banks adopting the Poseidon principles, is now firmly moving towards the direction of deploying green technologies. It will not be long before technology, business model, and financing converge to a point to form the perfect storm to energise the maritime transformation.”

Note: Dr. Sanjay Kuttan is a moderator for the Industry Panel: Harbour Craft – Electrification & Digitalisation virtual roundtable scheduled to take place on Thursday (22 April) at 18:25 – 19:10 SGT as part of SMTC 2021.

Manifold Times

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