Tethering container ships with ropes and chains could become ancient maritime history, with a new generation of automated ship mooring system promising to save thousands of tonnes of emissions, including NOx, SO2 and carbon dioxide, according to its inventor.
“The system of anchoring ships to port using ropes and chains, unchanged since the dawn of sailing and often taking up to one hour, is set for a radical overhaul,” says Swiss engineering firm Cavotec, which says its new vacuum-based mooring system can moor a ship in just 30 seconds.
ASKO Maritime, the shipping arm of Norway’s largest grocery chain, will be one of the first customers – its fully electric ships will sail autonomously from port to port thereby replacing two million km of truck transport, and 5,000 tonnes of CO2, every year. Currently, the grocery store transports cargo using more than 800 trucks daily, shifting goods from warehouses on the western side of Oslo fjord to the distribution centre on the eastern side. Electric and autonomous ships, automatically berthed with vacuum mooring, will replace the trucks.
Kai Just Olsen, ASKO Maritime CEO, says: “The MoorMaster system will save us huge amounts of energy and is a key enabler of autonomous operations. Since we won’t need to use the powerful bow and side thrusters in port, our electric vessels will use less energy and also extend the battery lifetime. The MoorMaster technology is perfect to complement to our new ships – using modern technology for a futuristic fleet.”
Even with conventional vessels, Cavotec says its MoorMaster can reduce the level of harmful emissions by as much as 98 per cent during mooring leading to a healthier environment for port employees and nearby communities.
“In the next 10 years, with the introduction of smart shipping technology, we could finally see the end of the slow and dangerous use of ropes and chains at dockside,” says Mikael Norin, Cavotec’s CEO.
Ships are the largest local air pollution source in Hong Kong, according to the government, with marine vessels accounting for over 50% of the city’s SO2 and around 37% of its NOx in 2019.
“The SO2 emissions at berth account for about 40% of the total SO2 emissions of ocean going vessels when staying in Hong Kong,” says the Environmental Protection Department.Ocean-going vessels are only required to switch to cleaner fuels “once securely berthed”, says EPD, meaning a quicker berthing operation could potentially have a big impact on local air pollution.