The high (replacement) demand for short sea ships combined with the energy transition offers the Northern Netherlands maritime sector huge development opportunities. The strong need for emission-free shipping provides great opportunities to strengthen this area’s innovative maritime “ecosystem” by developing emission-reducing technologies. Combined with more efficient shipbuilding processes through digitalisation and robotisation, the Northern Netherlands maritime industry can lead the way in the transition to large-scale zero-emission shipping and digital shipbuilding.
On 13 June, Conoship’s Director of Development, Guus van der Bles, explained the “Green and Digital Maritime Innovation Ecosystem Northern Netherlands” (GDMIEN-NL) project and recent developments to KNVTS members in his lecture. This article provided by Conoship International reflects this presentation.
The start of project GDMIEN-NL
Last year, the maritime sector in the Northern Netherlands pooled its knowledge and expertise to realise the technology needed for “green” shipping and digitalised shipbuilding. This “Green Maritime Coalition”, was initiated by the Groninger Maritime Board and Conoship International. This GDMIEN-NL project will create an ecosystem for the Green Maritime Coalition, which is planning to lead the way in the transition to large-scale zero-emission shipping and digital shipbuilding.
The project is supported by the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRO) of the European Union and on Wednesday 13 July 2022, deputy of the Province of Groningen IJzebrand Rijzebol handed over a cheque to Conoship International, the coordinator of this innovation project. The consortium of 21 technology developers, shipping companies, shipyards, suppliers, laboratories, universities of applied sciences and the University of Groningen received the European grant (EFRO) to support these developments.
In the lecture, Van der Bles explained that this project creates the innovation ecosystem from which new cooperation structures are developed to investigate four innovative technologies for the transition from fossil to renewable energy in shipping and two digital shipbuilding process applications:
- Full electric propulsion on renewable Redox Flow battery technology
- 30-metre VentoFoils XL, wind propulsion units for ships
- Sailing on hydrogen (H2) by “marinising” fuel cells of 500 – 3000 kW
- Ship-based Carbon Capture and liquefaction installations
- Centralised digitised production of steel panels and sub-sections for shipyards in a Shared Facility
- FieldLab Digital Shipbuilding 4.0, where new production techniques for shipbuilding can be developed and made ready for production
Ecosystem and innovation value chains
With almost 2500 companies, 8340 direct employees and a production value of over EUR 3.5 billion, the Northern Netherlands is one of the Netherlands’ leading maritime regions. Cooperation and innovativeness have characterised this maritime cluster for decades. This was expressed in 1952 with the establishment of Conoship International by cooperating Frisian and Groningen shipyards, followed by Centraalstaal in 1972 and most recently the establishment of the Groninger Maritime Board (GMB) in 2018. This maritime ecosystem is essential to maintain and, where necessary, strengthen our position in global shipbuilding and shipping.
After the clarification on innovative ecosystems, Van der Bles explained the six innovation value chains that are investigating technologies needed for “green” shipping and digitalised shipbuilding. Partners recognise huge chances and opportunities for the “green” technologies in the developing future onto zero-emission shipping.
Combining these developments with digitalisation and robotisation of shipbuilding processes, enables the northern maritime ecosystem to create a bright future as world player in development, building and delivery of zero-emission ships. This not only preserves jobs for the region, it may also create new skills and hundreds of interesting jobs at existing companies and new digitized factories.
Value chain 1: Redox Flow Battery systems
Initial project partners: University of Groningen, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, Eekels Technology, and Conoship International
This project investigates the development of “Redox Flow” battery systems for fully electrically powered cargo ships. The concept is based on “land-based” technology, which has proven to be effective for storing large amounts of electrical energy at wind farms.
The concept is based on a positive and a negative liquid electrolyte, both stored in tanks, connected to a power cell with membrane technology. The size of the tanks determines the amount of kWh stored energy and this is independent from the rated power in kW of the power cell. Both can be optimised and integrated in dedicated ship design for trips up to 500 nautical miles.
Redox Flow technology is still developing and maritime application in seagoing ships is completely new. “Marinisation” of Redox Flow batteries requires joint research and development including a new test facility, This may ultimately lead to a factory for industrial production of the battery systems. With smart support and stimulation, the Netherlands can become a global leader in emission-free electric freight transport by sea.
Value chain 2: Wind Assisted Propulsion
Initial project partners: Econowind, Eekels Technology, NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences (Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz (MIWB)), Shipyard Bijlsma Wartena, , and Conoship International
The partners in this value chain aim to expand and scale up the development and production of the “VentoFoils”: auxiliary wind propulsion units for ships, based on suction-wing-technology. After the successful “Proof-of-Concept” of smaller 10-metre and 16-metre VentoFoil systems on coastal vessels, produced by Econowind BV, partners investigate the development of 30-metre VentoFoils XL. These installations can also be economically applied on much larger deep-sea vessels.
There is strong growth in demand from all over the world for auxiliary wind propulsion for these types of vessels. Developing, testing and demonstrating of a prototype is expected to generate a flow of orders, for which new production facilities will be developed and built for the large-scale serial production of “VentoFoils XL” (30-50 metres height).
Value chain 3: Ship-based Carbon Capture
Initial project partners: Bouman Veendam / CarboTreat, Conoship International, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen, and others.
Joan van den Akker, Conoship’s specialist in ship-based carbon capture, explained more in detail the challenges and opportunities of this innovative technology.
Developments in this value chain focus on adapting land-based CO2 capture systems for use on sea-going vessels. Bouman Industries and its subsidiary CarboTreat are now successfully supplying CO2 capture systems for use in land-based industries. Partners are jointly developing the technology for Ship-based Carbon Capture and Storage (SBCCS), ultimately targeting use on commercial vessels. To this end, Bouman is planning to expand their production facilities in Veendam to allow large-scale production.
Value chain 4: H2 Fuel cells
Initial project partners: Holthausen, Marine Service Noord, Eekels Technology, Conoship International, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen.
The partners in this value chain investigate the maritime application of fuel cell technology. The hydrogen and fuel cell developments at fuel cell supplier Holthausen in Groningen have mainly been focused on the automotive sector, but are being expanded to include maritime applications. This will generate new employment opportunities and facilities to produce these technologies in the Northern Netherlands.
Value chain 5: Robotized Micro-panels
Initial project partners: various Northern Netherlands shipyards, Cadmatic, Floorganise, FME, MSO , Conoship International and others
Partners investigated the feasibility of the development of a robotised micro panel factory with and by the Northern Netherlands shipyards, for centralised digitised production of steel panels and sub-sections for the shipyards. The aim of the facility is to increase the efficiency of the production of ships in the Northern Netherlands shipbuilding to a next level, with production prices that are more than competitive with East and Southeast Asia. This will lead to an expansion of shipbuilding capacity and employment at the co-makers of existing yards.
The feasibility study (2022) showed that such an automated micro panel line is feasible, provided that the machine concepts, the control system, and the organisational and financing form are developed jointly and step by step and further elaborated.
Value chain 6: Fieldlab Shipbuilding 4.0
Initial project partners: various Northern Netherlands shipyards, MSO, Noorderpoort, Cadmatic, Floorganise, FME, NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, Conoship International and others
Partners are developing a FieldLab Digital Shipbuilding 4.0, where digitalisation and robotisation of welding- and assembly processes at the shipyards will be investigated, tested and trained. Digital support for the cooperation and coordination of co-makers and shipyards will make the outfitting and installation of emission-free technologies and other engine room and electrical systems in ships much more efficient. As a result, shipyards in the Northern Netherlands can apply and integrate innovative zero-emission technologies in ships that are built competitively.
For high-qualified staff a regional training and testing centre for digital and robotised shipbuilding (ROTTS ) will be set up together with educational partners MSO, Noorderpoort and NHL Stenden University Applied Sciences.
Van der Bles concluded the lecture for KNVTS with follow-up steps for developing, securing and expanding the innovation ecosystem. For each technology, partners in the value chain cooperate in developing a roadmap for 2023-2030 and beyond. The roadmaps will be integrated in the Green Maritime Coalition Strategic Plan 2023-2030.
Wrapping up, Van der Bles once again told the audience: ‘Cooperation between technology developers, builders, shipping companies, knowledge institutes, educational institutes, and governments is essential to realise these developments. If you are interested to cooperate in this green maritime coalition, we invite you to join us.’
The GDMIEN-NL project is co-funded by:
Picture (top): Guus van der Bles presenting for KNVTS on 13 June (all picture by Conoship).